Talking back (to theatre)!

This coming Saturday night, Sept 15, I will be at La Mama theatre in New York City, in conversation with playwright/director Kevin Doyle about the new play from his company, Sponsored By Nobody, THE AЯTS.

The play deals with the history of federal arts funding in the US, particularly the founding and subsequent de-funding of the National Endowment for the Arts. I am there to chat because of the paper I published this past spring in Arts and International Affairs, entitled Goodbye to the NEA?

I’m so pleased to be part of this effort connecting academic study with the arts as a topic, and with art in live theatrical performance. See you in NYC!

University of Toronto!

Hi all! Some news!

Starting now, I’ll be a (Visiting Assistant) Professor at the University of Toronto, in the Department of Geography and Planning. I’m on leave from Portland State University, as my partner got a job here in Toronto (UT-Scarborough: Arts, Culture and Media) and we decided to come and see what Canada has to offer.

In our first 48 hours here, Canada has offered us Greek food, a lot of rain, and very polite immigration officers.

I will miss my students and colleagues at the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning sorely, but I will be back to visit, continue archival research, sit on some graduate student committees, see friends, and swim in waterfalls.

This fall, I’ll be teaching an undergraduate class called Urban Planning Processes, and a graduate class called Planning Decision Methods. I look forward to learning a new city — its history and its systems — and meeting students with a different perspective.

If you’re in town, get in touch and we’ll go get dumplings!

Review: City Unsilenced

I got to review City Unsilenced: Urban Resistance and Public Space in the Age of Shrinking Democracy, an edited volume on protest around the world in the last decade, centered on Urban Public Spaces, for the journal, Urban Studies.

“In response to austerity politics and market-based governance of urban land, large-scale social protest has erupted in the public spaces of cities across the globe. In City Unsilenced: Urban Resistance and Public Space in the Age of Shrinking Democracy (Routledge, 2017), editors Jeffrey Hou of UW-Seattle and Sabine Knierbein of SKuOR, Vienna – both scholars of the dynamics of public space –  have compiled the stories, strategies and theories derived from social movements in urban spaces since 2011. In this volume, the collected authors demonstrate how public spaces in cities operate as both the subject and object of civic unrest.”

Check out the full review here and let me know if you can’t get behind the paywall.



Quoted on racism in public space

I was quoted in Quartz magazine (online) regarding a recent spike of white people calling the cops on Black people in public spaces. (BTW, it’s the reporting that is new, not the bad behavior of white Americans.)

“Calling the police in these instances is about having “the power to say you don’t belong here,” says Naomi Adiv, a professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University, whose research explores power dynamics in public spaces. Adiv says that the issue of who is feared, and who is seen as having a “right” to be in a certain space, is deeply intertwined with race and the US history of segregation.”


In which I get to speak about my research to students! (Or, this is one of the best parts of my job.)

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) Student fellows invited Dr. Jola Ajibade and I to speak to them at their monthly event.

What a wonderful and smart group of students! I say this without exaggeration — they were so engaged and thoughtful. Here are some photos of the event (credit: Maria Sipin).


Gotham center post by yours truly

The Gotham Center for New York City history published a bloggy version of some of my favorite research: a story about the conflict over whether or not it was ok to swim in New York City’s rivers, which went on for over six decades! Take a look here. Thanks, Gotham Blog!

I am famous.

I was quoted in  Oregon Business, in an article on luxury apartments.

Goodbye to the NEA?

I wrote this piece on the proposed defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts (and the NEH, and the CPB) for the online journal Arts and International Affairs. It talks about where the idea to defund came from, how its supporters spin it, and what the NEA was meant to be about at its outset.

You can read it here!

On being groped and staying quiet. Or, what kind of place an airplane can be.

I published this short personal essay in the academic journal, Gender, Place and Culture in response to a call for papers about the Women’s March. It’s about the 2016 presidential race, being groped on airplanes, and how particular kinds of spaces are used to keep women quiet.

This was a tricky one for me to publish, exposing moments of personal vulnerability in an academic setting. That said, I believe that a great part of our responsibility as scholars – especially in the social sciences – is to expose injustice; in this case, that means sharing my own story in the present political moment.

Thanks for reading. If this piece moves you to comment, I ask that you send along an email rather than posting below.

Thanks very much for reading.


Fifty people can download the article for free, here:

After that, if you have a hard time getting to it (paywall, etc.) let me know.

Here’s a pre-publication copy (for those of you who don’t need to cite.)

You Deserve to Be Here.

You deserve to be here

At Portland State University, I teach a year-long course called ‘Portland’ in our general education program. Different instructors teach this course on the history, geography, culture and politics of Portland in many ways; this fall, my class focused on local elections: city, county, metro (our regional government) and state level politics.

When planning the course over the summer, I made the conscious decision not to take on federal elections, both because there was already a lot to cover, and also because – if students paid attention to the press at all – they were saturated with the national stories. Furthermore, the presidential race was taking a turn for the worse. The primary debates had been ugly; Trump was already on the radio saying terrible things about Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and a host of other groups; the tone had become childish and rude. When classes began, my decision was reaffirmed: I was not at all interested in making room for the racist voices of the Trump line, nor letting any student be abused by that rhetoric in a setting that I would facilitate.

So: local politics. A lot of our time was spent on basic civics – different levels of government, who is responsible for what, how resources get allocated – a topic in which many of my students were sorely uninformed, whether they had attended Oregon (or other American) public schools or been educated abroad. We had visits from the two candidates for a hotly contested Portland City Council seat. We visited the local elections commission to see where and how ballots get counted. We examined state house races. It was great.

Or, mostly great. At times, I became frustrated with what I took as students’ indifference to the political process. I wanted them to become passionate about the potential of local politics to enact real change; instead, many asked questions about “if spelling counts” on their papers. Why weren’t they invested in the races in their state legislative districts? Why didn’t they come to class fired up about Portland’s weak homeless policy? Why didn’t they read the news? And then, of course, I had to face the fact that most had never been rewarded for self-motivation or analyses of power in their education – why would they start now, with me, in their first-ever term of college, while a chemistry midterm loomed?

And in the face of all that, we did learn. On good days, we even talked about democracy.

On Tuesday, November 8, I brought in a cake! “Happy Election Day!” it declared, in orange icing on chocolate, with a chocolate donkey and an elephant standing atop. I wanted my students to regard this as a joyous day for celebrating democracy, and the right to vote. My TA took a photo of me in a professorial blazer, smiling proudly.


We all ate cake together, as we watched the videos students had made in small groups in order to teach one another about local ballot initiatives. I encouraged them to watch the returns that night, and happily dismissed them.

We all know now how the evening went.

And now Trump. And now the rise in hate crimes. And now it is Wednesday, November 9 and I am in my office, fuzzy headed, counting my students from the roll call: at least 2/3 of them foreign or immigrant or Latino or Muslim or Jewish or Queer or People of Color or women or with a disability.

And suddenly, I wondered: what had I done? Had I been so blind to the possible outcomes, so grumpy about the terms of the political debate that I had ignored the fact that many of these students were being derided and threatened all term? Had I been complicit as the media covered the candidates as if this were normal? Had I acted ethically as I set aside national politics while this was unfolding?

I felt sheepish about only covering local elections. I felt anxious. I felt scared of backlash. And I felt confused, knowing I had no idea what my students’ opinions actually were on politics, having made very little space for them to hash it out publicly in order to protect me from them, them from me, and them from one another.

But there was going to be a Thursday, and there was going to be another class. And I was going to have to say something.

So we had class, and there was plenty to keep us busy. We had to watch the rest of the ballot initiative videos, and talk about how videos work as political communication, and answer questions about the upcoming assignment (letters to our elected officials!) We also went through results of the local ballot, and they understood it! Many even knew the results!! And suddenly I didn’t feel sheepish anymore – in fact, I felt proud of what we had covered and learned in the local races.

But then, with only five minutes of class left, I knew I had to say something before I sent out these young people – many of whom had just voted in their first-ever elections – into a world that was, for many of them, far more dangerous than it had been the day before.

I said this:

We just got back the results of a presidential election that was surprising to many of us, and in which many of us are disappointed. I have not talked about the national elections in this class, partially because we have been busy with other things, and partially because I wanted everyone to have their own political opinions without being forced to express or defend them, and without imposing my views.

 But now that Trump has been elected, I will say something because this campaign has been extremely divisive. The Trump campaign, especially, has said a lot of things that were insulting to people in this room. So first: if you are feeling sad or scared, you can come to me or email me, or go to any of the resource centers on campus. But even more than that, I want you all to know that you deserve to be here:

 If you are foreign, you deserve to be here.

If you are an immigrant, you deserve to be here.

If you are Latino, or Mexican, you deserve to be here.

If you are Muslim or Jewish, you deserve to be here.

If you are Queer, you deserve to be here.

If you are disabled, you deserve to be here.

If you are Black or Brown, you deserve to be here.

If you are a woman, you deserve to be here.

We all deserve to be here.

That is what it is to live in the United States.


That’s all I got. Class dismissed.