Sunday, February 12, 2017

Appearance on KQED's Forum

I was thrilled to be invited to appear on KQED's Forum alongside KQED journalist's Sandhya Dirks and Devin Katayama to discuss their new podcast on focused on Antioch and the changing suburbs of the Bay Area. While it is always a pleasure to be able to talk about one's work, and the work of dedicated journalists, it is even a greater pleasure to do so on the call-in show you grew up listening two. Michael Krasny is a legend.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Race, France and the neuf-trois

The first piece in a series of collaborations with French scholar Yohann Lemoige and American sociologist Greg Smithsimon was published in Herodote, the French journal of geopolitics published by the Institut Français de Géopolitique. The article, entitled 'Ni la race ni le 9-3 ne sont ce que nous croyons qu’ils son' (Neither race nor the 9-3 are what you think they are') looks at how supposedly American ways of seeing race both can be used and are being used to understand the Department of Seine Saint Denis outside of Paris and the issue of race in France more generally. Stay tuned for forthcoming work from Yohann and I rethinking the relationship between the suburbs and the banlieue, and a piece which examines the persistance of white imagineries of a changing French suburbia.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rethinking Housing Tenure

A new piece that is the start of a new stream of work on housing tenure. Written with colleagues Jake Wegmann and Deirdre Pfeiffer, we work to break what we call the double impasse on housing tenure - the old fight between renting and owning, and the long focus of many on alternative tenures as the sole answer. Instead, we strive to think how to protect 100% of housing tenures, reflecting how in a diverse US diverse tenures will always be the norm. We do some rethinking about how tenure is a two-dimensional issue, with the degree to which you control your housing and the degree to which you have an equity stake not necessarily working along a one dimensional line.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The emerging geography of rental-backed securitization

I am happy to report that research conducted on the emerging trend of rental backed securitization has been published by the SF Federal Reserve Bank. The project, with Desiree Fields and a former undergrad of mine, Rajkumar Kohli, is the first published work which attempt to map and understand where this new phenomenon is occurring. I am particularly proud of this piece because it is an example of teaching-oriented research, as this project was done as part of a directed research project. Raj gets much of the credit for this piece, as it was he who developed the means of combing bond reports to build a dataset.

The future of the urban academy

I've recently started publishing long-simmering ideas about how the urban university can be transformed to become a more powerful actor in changing cities and regions. By the urban university I do not mean the university in the city, but rather the parts of the university that study and teach about all aspects of urbanism, urbanization, urban systems and urban life, broadly defined. This is part of my general broad engagement with urbanization writ large, some of which is evident in my 23 steps piece.

An academic version of my urban university argument (The Future of the Urban Academy) can be found in City in a piece published in conversation with David Madden. A newer, shorter and accessible version was published on the Carbegie Council's new Policy Interventions site under the headline, Can the University Help Make Better Cities?

The general themes of this work are getting us to rethink the basic political processes that decide what gets build where, issues of long term planning and media coverage of urbanization, and recognize that the institutions we have that currently are in charge of these functions are modern inventions that can and should be changed. The university has a key role to play, far beyond what we currently imagine. I discuss this in some form in a recent op-ed on political compromise in the Bay Area. We need to think bigger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Strange Case of the Bay Area

Walker R, Schafran A, 2014, "The strange case of the Bay Area" Environment and Planning A advance online publication, doi:10.1068/a46277

A long-brewing collaboration with one of my mentors, Richard Walker, which attempts to weave together the various strands of the Bay Area.

Abstract. The San Francisco Bay Area is hard to get one’s head around and is frequently misunderstood. It is immense, decentered, sprawling, autotopic, multiracial, divided, and more—a crucible of the modern suburban and exurban metropolis. It is distinctive in several regards, but illuminating of the dynamics behind metropolitan geography. Indeed, the Bay Area has been integral to the production of modern American suburbia and its urban system embodies many of the contradictions of the contemporary moment.

Keywords: cities, suburban, metropolitan, San Francisco, Bay Area, Silicon Valley, California, inequality

Monday, November 3, 2014

Debating Urban Studies in 23 Steps

Debating urban studies in 23 stepsI have recently taken over the Debates section at CITY, and have published a somewhat polemical piece looking at how to reposition Urban Studies so that the 100th anniversary of gentrification is a funeral not a coming-of-age party. It includes a wide ranging set of reconsiderations, from key ideas which need revisiting to major institutional changes.

The piece is designed to spur debate, so please contact me if you would like to submit a response, or a debates piece of another kind. Don't hesitate to email me if you can not get past the paywall.

Monday, March 24, 2014

IJURR award

The editorial board of the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research recently voted my article on the role of the restructuring of the San Francisco Bay Area in the production of the foreclosure crisis as one of the two best articles of 2013. I am simultaneously floored and honored.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Activism in Exurbia

My newest piece, a collaboration with colleagues Oscar Sosa and June Gin, about activism where it isn't imagined to be - far off suburbs like my beloved Antioch.

Politics and possibility on the metropolitan edge: the scale of social movement space in exurbia

Alex Schafran, Oscar Sosa Lopez, June L Gin

Abstract. Both the suburbanization of poverty and the growth of suburban social movements have been the focus of much academic discussion of late, even if these two discussions are not necessarily linked. One area that has been relatively underresearched when it comes to both phenomena are exurban regions, critical spaces of change and crisis, in particular in upmarket regions like those in Northern and Southern California. This paper presents a case study of the ‘social movement space’ of eastern Contra Costa County, on the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. It argues that not only did propoor, social-justice-oriented movements arise over the past decade in response to changing geography, they exhibited a form of ‘scalar promiscuity’ which differs from the regionalization of social movements or other forms of ‘scale jumping’ well known in the literature.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Megaregions in Regional Studies

First piece in Regional Studies. First piece with an abstract in Chinese. Equally thrilled with both developments. This link will give free access to the first 50 downloaders.

More on megaregions to come in John Harrison and Michael Hoyler's new book on the subject. Details to follow when it is out.

Rethinking Mega-Regions: Sub-Regional Politics in a Fragmented Metropolis

The recent surge in mega-regional research in the United States has identified the need for analysis at a gargantuan scale. A corresponding set of arguments examines the difficulty for planning and political intervention at this scale. Using an empirical examination of one megaregion – Northern California – this paper argues for a rethinking of megaregional geography, one which differentiates between megaregions as an ever-expanding envelope and megaregions as a particular set of impacted spaces. This approach, which requires a more nuanced understanding of the historical formation of individual megaregions, enables a tactical, sub-regional intervention, even as the scale of analysis expands.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Social Justice in Diverse Suburbs

A great way to celebrate my move to Leeds - my piece with Lisa Feldstein in Chris Neidt's new edited volume from Temple University Press is now out! A great series of articles about struggles in the new American suburbia.

The chapter examines the interaction of racial and environmental politics in Richmond, California in the wake of the election of a white, Green Party mayor. Richmond is much in the news these days - deservedly so - and the chapter sheds some light on the background to these developments.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Slumburbia in CITY!

My newest piece, in one of my favorite journals, City (where it seems I am joining the editorial board).

Discourse and dystopia, American style: The rise of ‘slumburbia’ in a time of crisis

This paper examines the recent growth in the popular media of new discourses of decline focused on the American suburb. This new discursive twist, which appropriates language traditionally reserved for inner cities, is rooted in both the city/suburb dialectic, which has long dominated American urbanism, and the empirical realities of the foreclosure crisis and changing geographies of poverty in the American metropolis. Scholars should be concerned about the rise of this new discourse, as it reinforces a dialectic long since outdated, roots decline in a particular geography rather than examining the root causes of the crisis, and has potentially deleterious effects on communities already facing social and economic struggle in the wake of foreclosure. Linked as this discourse is to academic research on the suburbanization of poverty, it gives pause to those scholars who would speak in terms of ‘suburban decline’.

Special thanks to Nezar Alayyad an the IASTE folks for giving me a chance to present a very early version of this paper at the 2010 Beirut conference. That important fact got omitted in the final version, and this is my fault. Apologies, and thanks.