UCLA lecturer and co-director of the UCLA Voting Rights Center, Chad Dunn, secures a settlement with the State of Texas requiring it rescind a voter purge of newly naturalized citizens. The settlement agreement can be found HERE, and it requires Texas to withdraw their earlier advisory claiming there were 95,000 illegally registered non-citizen voters in Texas. The 95,000 figure, which is wrong and has now, as part of the settlement, been withdrawn, was retweeted by President Trump. Texas must now institute a much smaller and more targeted program to investigate non-citizen registrants.
In the Fall 2018, UCLA launched a Voting Rights Center with Mr. Dunn and Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Professor Matt Barreto. Undergraduate, graduate and law students now have the opportunity to learn and train under some of the pre-eminent voting rights experts and civil rights lawyers in the country.
More about the Texas case can be learned at the following links:
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/brennan-center-for-justice.png663693Contributorhttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgContributor2019-04-26 17:17:502019-04-26 17:17:50Co-Director of UCLA Voting Rights Center Secures Settlement on Texas Voting Rights Case
UCLA Professors Abigail C. Saguy and Juliet A. Williams from Sociology and Gender Studies, respectively, are co-authoring a book that focuses on the notion of gender neutrality specifically, its use in three areas: the law, news media, and political activism. They share some of their thoughts surrounding this topic for their book in an article they wrote for ScientificAmerican. The article is titled, “Why We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns.” Drs. Saguy and Williams discuss the changes that are happening in degendering today. More and more individuals and companies are taking action to move away from binary gender categories. For example, United Airlines has made available the salutation Mx., an option on their drop-down menu for individuals who choose to be gender-neutral. In addition, it is more common to state one’s preferred pronouns in various public professional spaces as well as via email signature. Drs. Saguy and Williams further examine this current practice of announcing one’s preferred pronouns. Do gendered identifiers cause more bias and discrimination? Is it better for everyone to be gender neutral and use the pronouns they/them? To learn more about the conversation happening around these questions, check out the full article HERE.
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Monica L. Smith is a UCLA professor in the Department of Anthropology. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, Smith is the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies and the Director of South Asian Archaeology Laboratory in the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. Her principal research interests have three main focuses: the human interaction with material culture, urbanism as a long-term human phenomenon, and the development of social complexity. Most recently, Smith has spent time on a research project in eastern India, but her scope of work covers various parts of the world including Madagascar, Turkey, Bangladesh, Italy, Tunisia, Egypt, and the United States to name a few. Smith has combined her years of rich research and experience to share the history of cities in her newly published book that was released this month titled, Cities: The First 6,000 Years. In a recent correspondence with Smith she describes in her own words a brief comment about her book. She explains:
“This book explores what makes cities a compelling part of human life, and how over the past six thousand years they have become the dominant form of human settlement. The growth of cities wasn’t an easy process and those who live in cities find them challenging and exciting in equal measure. There is crowding, pollution, high prices, and traffic, but at the same time there are amazing job opportunities, educational and medical facilities, and the possibilities of entertainment ranging from major sports teams to museums, art galleries, and theaters. Cities are also places of much greater diversity, whether that’s ethnic diversity, migrant neighborhoods, or LGBTQ communities. Cities are places of great economic growth and they’re linked together into a global network of connected places.”
Dr. Smith offered additional insights and words of wisdom in a short series of questions about her book.
What inspired you to write your book, Cities: The First 6,000 Years?
I really enjoy teaching my classes “Cities Past and Present” and “Religion and Urbanism” within the Anthropology Department here at UCLA. And I am also an archaeologist who works on ancient urban centers in the Indian subcontinent. Those experiences, as well as my interest in contemporary cities (including our great city of LA!) provided the inspiration for the book. There are a lot of things about cities that we find challenging, but cities are growing larger and larger. My interest was in exploring the long continuity of city life from the very beginnings of urbanism starting six thousand years ago right through to the present and future.
How long did the process take to complete your book?
The Cities book was a sequel to a previous book that I wrote, A Prehistory of Ordinary People, which was published in 2010. Like most academic projects, there’s a kernel of an idea that starts long before we sit down to write a new book. But this one took a couple of years, which in terms of increments is not that much work – about a page a day, really, although some of those pages were rewritten many times to try and get it just right.
What were some of the challenges of writing and publishing?
I was very fortunate in having good prior experiences in public engagement such as through the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology’s annual Backdirt publication. And my colleague Jared Diamond (UCLA Geography) was very helpful in providing encouragement and suggestions. The publication staff and editors at Viking Press were amazing in their dedication to the book and in support of me as an author.
What was most enjoyable about writing this book?
As I wrote in the book’s acknowledgements, this book was really a pleasure to work on and something that I truly enjoyed doing. I’ve always been interested in examining archaeology beyond the perspective of palaces, kings, and queens, so it was an opportunity to think about how we can take evidence in the form of potsherds and ancient buildings to understand how ancient people felt about their cities and how those feelings are still part of our own urban lives.
What do you hope readers take from your book?
I enjoyed the idea of walking people through their own cities, so that they can be archaeologists too. There are the physical remains of our ancestors everywhere around us in every city; in Los Angeles, we have places like Olvera Street and Sawtelle Japantown and Bruce’s Beach. Once people start to look around at the palimpsests of the past in their own city, they can apply those skills to the places that they visit in their travels or the cities to which they relocate for work and family. Cities are remarkably similar in time and space, whether they are archaeological sites or living cities. And some places, like Rome and Mexico City, are ancient and modern all at the same time.
Any advice for others (students/professors) who want to write their own book?
Writing a book isn’t much different from writing a paper (a very long paper!).
How were you able to balance so many responsibilities in your personal life with family and as a professor, chair, director, as well as author a book?
As faculty, we are constantly writing in a variety of different formats, including writing research articles, grant proposals, conference papers, and letters of recommendation in support of students. So, writing a book gets folded into those other activities, and writing is a little bit like breathing: something that we do all the time. But I’ll admit that one of the things that gets cut in the balance of activities is keeping up with things like movies and TV, so I rely on my friends to keep me up to date on that!
How do you feel now that your book is out? How has it been received?
The publisher has been great about spreading the word, and the reviews in advance of publication have been beautiful. One thing that I really appreciated was the reviewers who found the book “humorous” which is not something that faculty often hear – it’s a great compliment. I hope that people enjoy reading it, even if they have time for just a chapter or two.
Definitively, Smith’s book has resonated with many people and has been recognized by other authors, archaeologists, colleagues, and publishing companies. Below are just a couple of praises Smith has received regarding her book. Zahi Hawass, author of Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt stated, “Cities captures the reality and stress of how we make cities and how, sometimes, cities make us. This is a must-read book for any city dweller with a voracious appetite for understanding the wonders of cities and why we’re so attracted to them.” Similarly, Publishers Weekly commented on Smith’s book saying it was, “[An] enjoyable, humorous combination of archeological findings, historical documents, and present-day experiences.” These are convincing reviews, so get the book and read it for yourself.
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UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences is full of amazing faculty, staff, and students who are contributing to academic scholarship in major ways. Dr. Marcus Hunter is certainly one of these people. Dr. Hunter is a dedicated professor of sociology, the chair of the African American studies department, and a respected author.
Most recently, Dr. Hunter was recognized by the UCLA Newsroom for his book he co-authored with Dr. Zandria F. Robinson titled, Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life. This book is filled with the rich history of the Black American experience dating back to the 1900s and focuses on how Black Americans created their own “Chocolate Cities” where black culture is maintained, created, and defended. It touches on diverse topics including race, racism, place, space, knowledge, and liberation as well as the social, cultural, economic, and political influence. Looking through the eyes of Black Americans and highlighting the way they define their American story, it breaks down preconceived notions of American history told by white America.
To learn more, read the interview with Marcus Hunter about his renowned book HERE.
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By Eli R. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico
In the winter of 2010, just months after graduating from Wesleyan University, I landed a job as a food runner at a much-hyped new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Training in this position meant mingling with bussers and food runners, all of whom were working-class, Latino men. For weeks, I did all I could to keep from bumping into my coworkers and diners, while my peers ran circles around me. A month after opening, it was clear the restaurant was not doing as well as expected, and management announced that they were going to have to let some people go. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I was promoted to a position behind the bar, a more prestigious role earning much larger tips. The reaction of my colleagues was nothing but positive, even though I’d been promoted above much more qualified (nonwhite) staff. These interactions stayed with me for years, propelling my graduate research into service dynamics within restaurant workplaces in large, global cities.
A full decade later, my research has revealed how the dynamics of service work reproduce social inequalities of race, class, immigration, and gender. While some restaurant workers are able to leverage workplace conditions to their advantage (in the form of flexible jobs and relatively lucrative pay), many others find themselves bound within socially stratified worlds of work that offer unpredictable and insecure jobs.
When most people think of tipping, they think only of the exchange between a customer and worker, ending with a tip being passed between them. In fact, there is an extended network of workers who labor in the shadow of tips but with unequal access to them. Servers and bartenders, who tend to be white and middle-class, enjoy the lion’s share of tips, whereas bussers, cooks, and dishwashers, who tend to be foreign-born Latino men, usually receive a relatively small cut of this money or none at all.
The unequal distribution of tips behind the scenes creates both interpersonal tensions and uneasy alliances between groups of workers who already have little in common. A server might slide a five-dollar bill to a cook in order to ensure speedy food preparation and perfectly cooked steaks. At the end of the same shift, the dishwashers staring down heaping piles of dirty plates may feel that the servers in the dining room work half as hard and make twice as much money. In a labor environment where service workers earn wages at or scarcely above minimum wage, tips—which can amount to hundreds of dollars a shift—represent economic power that only a privileged subset of workers can access. Long after the last customers depart, the gratuities they leave behind deepen employee divisions already stressed by race, class, and gender differences.
Tips have another dangerous byproduct: Because individual workers are focused on receiving more gratuities—often tensely negotiating these among themselves—it is difficult to build collective forms of labor solidarity among restaurant workers. The struggle for tips has half of all restaurant employees focused on individual strategies to extract gratuities from customers rather than on seeking common ground with other employees to advocate for higher wages, benefits, or better working conditions. Tip work, be it in restaurants, hotels, or high-end spas, exacerbates the labor conditions that keep groups of service workers divided and leaves marginal working conditions unchallenged.
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This past winter quarter, the UCLA Labor Studies Program offered the class Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-care, and Social Justice. Originally offered as a small seminar in 2015, the class has grown to 120 students with a follow-up seminar offered in the spring. We sat down with Professor Victor Narro to learn more about the course and the impact it has had on the student community.
What is the Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Social Justice class?
I created this class in 2014 when I became more aware that UCLA students involved with social justice organizations suffered from similar levels of stress and anxiety as my colleagues in the work for labor and immigrant rights. The class is offered during winter quarter and introduces students to the teachings and practices of spiritual leaders like Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh. Throughout the course, students learn how to apply the lessons on self-compassion and compassion for others.
How did you get interested in self-care, and what made you decide to teach a class on it?
A few years ago, I started suffering from burnout in my social justice work. I thought it was just because I was getting older, but then I started noticing it’s a major issue throughout the social justice movement—people just overwhelmed, especially under the Trump administration. I see the same symptoms with student activists, and it’s even tougher on them in many ways; they have to balance their academic workloads with their activist work and their personal lives, and many are also working.
What is self-care?
Self-care, is learning to be activists for ourselves, to care about ourselves so that we can more effectively care for others, and to find a balance between the two. Being activists for ourselves means taking care of our physical health and emotional well-being while also taking care of others.
What are the goals of the course?
Through reflections on the readings and activities, students can learn to use self-care practices in their daily lives to reduce their stress and improve their health. I emphasize that there is no best practice for this. Religion can play a role, and students’ religious faiths can be integrated into their practice. Others might choose a spirituality practice disconnected from organized religion or just practical applications of mindful breathing, meditation, or yoga. Everybody is going to find something that works for them.
My goal is also to connect students with the campus resources their fees pay for. For instance, most students don’t know that there is a mindfulness awareness program that offers free classes and workshops to students. There’s also Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which offers free psychological counseling to students. Part of self-care is reaching out for help when you need it.
What are some of the course readings and activities?
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist Vietnamese monk who spoke out against the Vietnam War and encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. to do the same. Thich Nhat Hanh created his own concept of a community called a sanga, where the community members come together to meditate but also to practice peace activism. His teachings are a great way for students to see how spirituality can connect with social justice work. We also talk about the philosophy of nonviolence, including the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Archbishop Oscar Romero. And we examine how to deal with anger in a healthy way with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.
We also do various kinds of meditation at the beginning of each class so students are introduced to basic examples of these practices that they can then explore further if they’re interested.
How would you like this course to impact students now and after they graduate?
Many of the students in the class are activists and plan to make a career of social justice work. I hope this class helps them establish a self-care practice now that will prevent burnout and help them be healthier and more effective change leaders.
Victor Narro is a nationally known expert on the workplace rights of immigrant workers. He is a project director for the UCLA Labor Center, a core faculty member for UCLA Labor Studies, and a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. The Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Social Justice course will continue to be offered, more information to be released soon.