Monday, October 15, 2018

The Road to Resegregation is Out!

I'm thrilled to announce that The Road to Resegregation: Northern California and the Failure of Politics, is out now from UC Press. It should be in bookstores in the Bay Area by the end of October, and is available online in both electronic and paper versions.

I will be doing a book launch and tour through California between Thanksgiving and the end of January. More details will posted here, but I welcome inquiries about speaking engagements, brown bag meetings or any other change to discuss the book in person whilst I am in California. Contact me at: a.schafran [at] leeds.ac.uk.

From the publisher's description:

How could Northern California, the wealthiest and most politically progressive region in the United States, become one of the earliest epicenters of the foreclosure crisis? How could this region continuously reproduce racial poverty and reinvent segregation in old farm towns one hundred miles from the urban core?

This is the story of the suburbanization of poverty, the failures of regional planning, urban sprawl, NIMBYism, and political fragmentation between middle class white environmentalists and communities of color. As Alex Schafran shows, the responsibility for this newly segregated geography lies in institutions from across the region, state, and political spectrum, even as the Bay Area has never managed to build common purpose around the making and remaking of its communities, cities, and towns. Schafran closes the book by presenting paths toward a new politics of planning and development that weave scattered fragments into a more equitable and functional whole.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Urbanization as an Economic Sector

Replacing the services sector and three-sector theory: Urbanization and control as economic sectors

Published together with colleagues Conor McDonald, Ernesto Lopez Morales, Nihan Akyelken
and Michele Acuto, this long-simmering article in Regional Studies is both a fresh look at the economy as a whole, and urbanization as an economic activity. Below is the abstract. I am very interested in building partnerships for further work in this area, so don't hesitate to contact me for a copy of if you are interested in discussing the core idea.

Abstract

Developed during the Second World War, ‘three-sector theory’ popularized the notion of the ‘services’ sector. It has quietly underpinned understandings of economic structure ever since. The limitations and influence of this basic breakdown have led to many critiques and extensions, but no replacements. Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Urban Revolution (1968), we develop a four-sector model that replaces services with sectors focused on urbanization and control. We argue that this
model is a better reflection of material economic life, and a more useful way of approaching the 21st-century economy. It also offers scholars of urbanization and regional development a creative new way of seeing urbanization.




The Shithole Project

I am thrilled that some research done with Alice Butler, a doctoral student working with me at Leeds, has been published in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, and in condensed form in The Conversation.

The research looks into what people in the UK mean when they call a place a "shithole". The article is part of my longstanding interest in how and why and to what end we say mean things about places. In this case, it turns out that gender really matters.

Abstract
This paper investigates what people mean when they engage in the discourse of denigration. Building on existing literature on territorial stigmatisation that either focuses on macro‐scale uses and effects of territorial stigmatisation or micro‐scale ethnographic studies of effects, we develop a novel approach that captures the diverse voices that engage in the discourse of denigration by tracing the use of the word and hashtag “shithole” on the social media platform Twitter in order to examine who is engaged in the stigmatising discourse, the types of place that are stigmatised and the responses to stigmatised places. Using a robust data set, we highlight two key findings. First, the majority of tweets were aimed at places where the tweeter was not from, a form of othering consistent with how territories are stigmatised by those in positions of power such as policymakers, politicians and journalists. Second, we note that an important and gendered minority of tweets can be characterised by a “cry for help” and powerlessness, where the stigma is aimed at their own places. We offer an interpretive lens through which to understand and frame these minoritarian voices by engaging with theories of abjection that allow us to see how minoritarian voices relate to place.

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.