Limited-equity Cooperatives in Washington, D.C: History and Struggle
My book Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. (forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in spring 2018), examines limited-equity housing cooperatives in Washington, D.C. I am interested in how co-op members collectively self-manage these non-commodified housing spaces, particularly given the pressures of a hot real estate market. I think of these co-ops as a manifestation of the urban commons, and theorize the work required by commons more broadly. Pictured at right is the grand opening of a co-op in the Shaw neighborhood, 1992. Read my 2014 paper in Washington History, "Creating a Commons in the Capital: The Emergence of Limited-Equity Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C."
Theorizing the Urban Commons
My book Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. (forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in spring 2018) delves into the theory and practice of the urban commons. The commons are spaces that are both non-commodifed and collectively owned and regulated. Since commons rely on collective labor, a commons is best understood as a social practice, rather than an inert resource. Most of what is known about the commons comes from studies of rural areas -- places with relatively sparse populations and cultural homogeneity. But what happens when we try to common in cities? For some thoughts on this, read my 2015 paper in Antipode, "Working with Strangers in Saturated Space: Reclaiming and Maintaining the Urban Commons." For an overview of recent literature on the urban commons, read my 2017 essay in Urban Studies, "Theorising the Urban Commons: New Thoughts, Tensions, and Paths Forward." Pictured at right is another instance of the urban commons: the BAT cultural center in Durban, South Africa.
C.L.R. James at Federal City College/UDC
One of my current research projects examines the years that C.L.R. James -- the most important black Marxist of the 20th century, author of Black Jacobins, among many other works -- spent teaching first at Federal City College (founded in 1968 as the public college for Washington, D.C.), and later at the University of the District of Columbia (created in 1976 as the successor to FCC). James taught at these these two institutions from 1968 until 1980. He's pictured here in a Washington Post article from 1981, "Cyril James: Marxist with a Mission."
PTO Revenues and Public School Inequity in Washington, D.C.
One of my current projects examines fundraising and organizing efforts of parent teacher organizations (PTOs) at public schools in Washington, D.C. I examine the city's most fiscally successful PTOs, and theorize what their success means for public school equity across the city. I presented this research at the 2017 meetings of the American Association of Geographers, and am submitting it for publication in the summer of 2017. The map I've made, pictured at right, shows a) locations of all the city's public schools (black symbols), b) the PTOs that are registered as tax-exempt organizations with the IRS (orange circles on top of their respective schools), and c) 2016 median household income for Washington, D.C. (the darker blue is higher income; the darker green is lower income). The size of the orange circles reflects the amount of PTO revenue for the 2014-15 school year.
Washington Inner-city Self Help (WISH) goes to South Africa
This project examines the history of Washington Inner-city Self Help (WISH) in South Africa. WISH was a grassroots organization that organized among poor and moderate-income people in Washington, D.C., 1978-2003. In the early 1990s, several WISH members traveled to South Africa to help poor black tenants become cooperative homeowners in previously all-white Johannesburg. The building pictured at right is one of seven rental buildings in Johannesburg that became cooperatively owned by their tenants with the help of WISH. To learn more about this story, check out my chapter, “Struggling for Housing, from D.C. to Johannesburg: Washington Innercity Self Help Goes to South Africa,” now available in the 2016 volume, Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C., edited by Derek Hyra and Sabiyha Prince, and published by Routledge Press.
Berlin collective housing
For my masters degree in city and regional planning, I researched the experiences of a group of people in Berlin who collectively purchased their previously squatted apartment building and turned it into a housing cooperative. My research examined the tensions between their external anti-gentrification work in their neighborhood, and their internal work of fixing up their home -- they completed repairs in early 2002, after several years of hard labor. Pictured at right is a photo from the collective's archives, documenting their work repairing their roof in the spring of 2000.