Initiatives & Research

At the Urban Democracy Lab, we are undertaking critical, interdisciplinary research projects at different levels of development. Through our main initiatives and working groups, we bring together scholars and scholar-activists from around the world, as well as practitioners and students, to engage in focused conversations about specific urban social justice themes. We spotlight innovations in governance and policy, but also areas where democracy is missing in that race for innovation.

Current Initiatives

  Democratizing the Green City

Green cities present us with a paradox: everyone agrees that our future lies in cities and that these cities need to be greener and more sustainable. But zoom in on any given project and, over and over, the same problem presents itself: too often green progress reinforces social inequality. Greening a place—either by reducing pollution...
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  Urban Humanities and Their Publics

Who speaks for the city? For whom and by whom is scholarship produced? Humanities scholars have increasingly become major caretakers of histories, representations, interpretations, physical designs, and experiences of city life. This has been crucial to create exchanges across disciplines and to provide new understandings and frameworks for processes of urbanization. Too often marginalized in...
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  New Urban Politics and the Right To The City

The Right To The City is often a rallying cry and an appealing abstract idea. But how do we enact it? What does it look like in practice? Where can we look for inspiration? In today’s era of fragmented governance and nationalist sentiments, cities have become the beacons of a global, progressive renaissance. In this...
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  Place, Displacement, & The Politics of Housing

As cities change, who gets to stay, and who is displaced? Who decides? Today, we are living globally through an unprecedented and protracted crisis of housing that affects countries in the Global North and Global South alike. As cities have become engines of economic growth, real estate has become more attractive for investment and speculation,...
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Working Groups

  Cooper Square Community Land Trust

The Cooper Square Community Land Trust Community History Project aims to record the personal histories and opinions of residents of the Cooper Square community of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, particularly those involved directly with the Cooper Square Community Land Trust (CSCLT), the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (CSMHA), and the Cooper Square Committee (CSC). Through...
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  Engaged Urbanists

Engaged Urbanists is our longest-standing, core working group. It meets monthly on the second Friday of each month and is built on reviewing works-in-progress that emphasize the porousness of the walls between the academy and the “real” world, scholars and activists, teachers and learners. More →

  Humanizing Data

This working group analyzes how we can use data and digital strategies to enhance and disrupt the kinds of research questions, methods, and narratives that define the humanities. More →

  Urban Listeners

The Urban Listeners working group is composed of oral historians, community organizers, archivists, artists, teachers, and scholars who are dedicated to knowledge-keeping and knowledge-making that acknowledges the profound impact power relations, colonial legacies, identity, and politics have on what we hear about both the past and present. Our group values advocacy and activism, and remains...
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  The Politics of Inadequate Housing

This is an ethnographic research project on substandard housing conditions in New York City. The project examines the persistence of substandard housing in New York through a study of the sociopolitical forces that underpin it. To do so, we look at the forces that shape the behavior of a variety of actors by conducting an...
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  UDL Student Advisory Board

The Urban Democracy Lab Student Advisory Board is dedicated to the promotion of ethical, inclusive, and sustainable forms of urbanism. In collaboration with the Director and Associate Director of the Urban Democracy Lab (UDL), the Student Advisory Board thinks critically and productively about pressing urban issues, and through research, field work, and community organizing, employs...
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