Those Active:

Branden Born
I’m an associate professor in the department of urban design and planning at the UW. As much as the field might be divided into physical and social dimensions, I work on the social. I’m interested in how we make societal decisions, and as Molly Ivins nicely said “who’s gettin’ screwed and who’s doin’ the screwin’.” Issues of social justice have always been of interest, particularly as they interface with actual governance.
My particular field of interest has been the food system and its relationship, or lack thereof, to planning and policy. While I think this particular battle has been won, I feel empirical study only goes so far, and believe that we need to turn our attention to developing theoretical connections to guide next actions to build a more democratic and just food system. Along these lines I think food system planning can benefit from the concepts in Deleuze and Guattari, Holland, and LeFebvre, at least. Rhizomatic structures then also can contribute to or inform contemporary planning practice, which will more appropriately locate thIMG_0154e planner, and their roles, in a time when a beneficent state cannot be presupposed. This, to me, may also represent the greatest potential leap forward for public participation since Arnstein’s now very rickety ladder.
In some form of perverse experimentation, I’m blogging at Chickenbus Chautauqua.

Evan Carver

[Evan’s text here]

Peter Dunn

[Peter’s text here]

Jesse McClelland
I am a PhD Candidate in Geography at the University of Washington and a Graduate Fellow in the Comparative Law and Society Studies (CLASS) Center. My dissertation concerns the work lives of urban planners in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My interests in this reading group are in the themes of power, justice, infrastructures, and place and the possibilities of taking up these and other themes across disciplines. I want to learn more about the possibilities of low, mixed, interwoven (urban) theories. How can a good theory change the way we understand and engage in cities? I am drawn to theories and practices leading to geographies of knowledge outside western/anglophone traditions, and the academy. I teach in Geography, Law, Societies and Justice (LSJ), and African Studies.

Mark Purcell
I am an urbanist, geographer, political theorist, and faculty member in the Department of Urban Design & Planning at the University of Washington.  My work examines the theory, practice, and potential of radical democracy in the city.  My primary blog home is pathtothepossible.

In The Urban Revolution Henri Lefebvre insists the purpose of radical critique is to “open a path to the possible, to explore and delineate a landscape that is not merely part of the ‘real,’ the accomplished, occupied by existing social, political, and economic forces.”  For Lefebvre the “real” was the existing capitalist city, and the possible was what he called “urban society.” Urban society is a virtual object that is both a horizon toward which we must move and also something that is always already here, present in our everyday lives, even if it is inchoate, emerging, and difficult to see.
For me this virtual object, this possible toward which radical critique must cut a path, is democracy.  Not liberal democracy and its elections, parties, and governing institutions.  But real democracy, democracy at the bone, democracy as a way of life, a social life in which people become active, reappropriate their own proper power, and undertake the ongoing project of managing the conditions of their existence.  Democracy on the horizon.  A path to the possible.

In addition to Lefebvre, I am also a big fan/student of the work of, among others: Aristotle, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Bakunin, Marx, Rousseau, Gramsci, Nietzsche, Deleuze & Guattari, Foucault, Ranciere, Laclau & Mouffe, Hardt & Negri, Castoriadis, Virno, Agamben, Calvino, and David Foster Wallace.

Susmita Rishi (Sush)
I am a Ph.D Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Ph.d Program in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. As an Indian architect, urban designer and researcher working in one of the fastest growing economies in the world, my interest in cities, their design and planning stems from my formative years spent in Chandigarh. Further inspired by the theory and writings of Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault and Antonio Gramsci amongst others, I understand space as a socio-cultural construct. I believe that built form and spaces are important mirrors and athenaeums of history, culture and memory and that the kind of spaces we create matter—not just for those who create and use them but for the fabric of the entire city.

My broad research interest lies in the areas of cities, citizenship and democracy. I am particularly interested in informal settlements and their roles and importance in the lives of the inhabitants. My dissertation work focuses on the value that residents of informal settlements find in their spaces of everyday life.

I maintain a blog of my daily musings and semi-academic work here.

Those Formerly Active (emeritus/a):

Amy Dobrowolsky
I am currently working toward my Ph.D. in the Program in the Built Environment at the University of Washington. My research interests include the politics of public space, political philosophy with a spatial flavor, digital media ethics and methods for scholarly research, and street-level insurgent actions and (re)appropriations of space. I received a Master of Library and Information Science from the UW’s Information School, where my thesis research consisted of an ethnographic study of the information behaviors and cultural identity of Seattle’s Polish community. I have worked at the UW Library’s Special Collections division processing and researching archival photograph collections as well as in the Digital Initiatives unit investigating the possibilities of digital librarianship. My writings also address trans/gender/queer issues and digital humanities, libraries, and archives.

Cheryl Gilge
I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the Built Environment, with a background in Fine Arts. My dissertation topic is Google Street View, and I’m interested in the ways in which it is changing how we understand the world as it is constructed, and will look at its quality as a visual phenomenon and user practices to locate tension that exists in relation to existing concepts. Deleuze, (Guattari to a much lesser extent), de Certeau and Ranciere are some of the key theorists I will engage, though I’m a promiscuous reader and actively read against the grain.

James Thompson
I am a student in the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in the Built Environment at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Critical Design graduate interest group. My academic and professional background is in architecture, a field that as of late has been  characterized as residing in a ‘post-critical’ historical stage. In response to such claims, my dissertation research will investigate how critical thinking can be incorporated into design practice (and praxis) via professional design education. Employing various pedagogical approaches, I hope to bolster the inherent pragmatic nature of design and the potential political agency of the designer with the necessary and appropriate critical tools to allow for meaningful interventions in the built environment.

My future career path will almost certainly be an amalgamation of professional and academic pursuits that criss-cross the proverbial walls of the university. As you might imagine, I am always on the lookout for interdisciplinary opportunities that relate to the topics of politics, design, and urban life, as well as examples of ‘critical design’, built or otherwise. Feel free to contact me and check out my webpage.

Jonathan Childers
Following years in urban/environmental planning consultancy and some non-profit international development work, I returned to grad school to pursue transdisciplinary practice, research, and teaching addressing political ecology, urbanism, and wellness. In brief, I am investigating the material and social dynamics that interact to affect community wellbeing and ecological health. Recently, I have been looking at Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as a decision-making tool influencing those dynamics. I led projects for the HIA of the Proposed Cleanup Plan for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site in Seattle, and I am conducting qualitative analysis of that HIA to complete my MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health. Research for my concurrent PhD in the Built Environment will build on that work, further considering the determinants and production of adaptive capacity, resilience, sustainability, and vitality. For more information, see my CV and blog.

Keith Harris
I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in the Built Environment program at the University of Washington in Seattle. My research interests lie at the intersection of critical theory & urban geography, and I’ll be writing my dissertation on the South Lake Union redevelopment project here in Seattle, invoking theorists such as Lefebvre, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault, and using a multimodal form of critical discourse analysis and social semiotics, and maybe even a little affect theory.
The blog that I try to maintain is called My Desiring-Machines and you can read it here.

Nicholas Jon Crane
I am an urban cultural and political geographer who works at the intersections of several interdisciplinary fields (memory studies, youth studies, social movement studies, Latin American studies, urban studies, and political theory). My research projects and recent publications examine a variety of themes, among them the problem of inclusion in youth political geography, the social reproduction of the state through anti-state activism, geographical approaches to memory, politics, and aesthetics, the “place” of place-based protest in Mexico City, and research design in human geography.
I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Geography at the Ohio State University, and I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology and Geography at Ohio Wesleyan University. For my updated CV, click here, or feel free to contact me by email:


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