Research Groups

Research Groups

Humanizing Deportation

Humanizing Deportation

Description: In response to general lack of first-hand knowledge regarding the experience of deportation and removal, and the consequent dehumanized narratives on the topic, we are producing an online open access archive  of personal stories about deportation. Policy debate on deportation tends to be driven by statistics, with little attention to human experience. This project will make visible a range of humanitarian issues that mass human displacement has generated as the result of its management on both sides of the US-Mexico border. It employs digital storytelling, a digital genre that puts control of content and production in the hands of community storytellers (deportees and others affected by deportation and deportability), to produce a public archive that will give a human face to the deportation crisis.

Contact: Lizbeth de la Cruz (, Sarah Hart (


Queer, Feminist, and Transgender Studies Research Cluster

Description: The Queer, Feminist, and Transgender Studies Research Cluster, initially founded in 2004 as the Queer Research Cluster (QRC), was subsequently renamed the QFT. Between 2007 and 2014, it served as a lively and dynamic forum for critical dialogues among graduate students and faculty on current activist scholarship in these three related fields. It also hosted the annual graduate student conference entitled Queer Symposium from 2007 through 2014. Now, in 2017, as political figures have taken up explicit stances against inclusion for a range of bodies and groups marked as other according to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, dis/ability, immigration or citizenship status, and class, the cultural analyses developed in queer, feminist and trans studies become even more urgent. For 2017-2018, the Cluster will center discussions on contemporary critiques of the de-humanizing and de-subjectifying violences productive of social death, and simultaneously on queer, feminist and trans studies’ re-assessments of care, health, sharing, and intimacy, re-framings that enable forms of survival, embodiment, and cultural production.

The QFT cluster will host reading groups, film screenings, professionalizing workshops, symposia, and a graduate student and faculty conference during the 2017-2018 school-year to foster exchange between graduate students and faculty across the university, and between UC Davis and other institutions.

QFT Facebook Page:

QFT Contact Information: Graduate Student Coordinator - Alex Fine, akfine@ucdavis.eduFaculty Coordinator - Elizabeth Constable,

General Inquiries:

Link to DHI Research Cluster Page (updated for 2017-2018 school year):

Women/Non-Binary People of Color Scholars (WOCSI) Inclusion Project

Description: Dr. Rodriguez along with CST graduate student, Jeanelle Hope, are coordinating the WOCSI Project for the 2017-2018 academic year. The aim of this one year project is to bring women of color/non-binary people of color scholars (faculty and graduate students) engaging critical race and ethnic studies together to create lasting relationships. Several activities have been planned for the year including a fall networking event, quarterly symposiums and workshops, a conference on the topic "Navigating UC Davis as a Woman/Non-binary Scholar of Color," and a conference where UCD women/non-binary scholars can share their research to the campus community.

Contact: Dr. Robyn Rodriguez:

Mellon Initiative in Racial Capitalism

Description: This initiative brings UC Davis faculty and graduate students together with outside scholars and activists to advance a research agenda that focuses on racial capitalism. The historical relationship between race and capitalism is one of the most enduring and controversial debates in U.S. historiography. Sometimes explicitly, often only implicitly acknowledged, it shapes fundamental questions about inequality, value, life, bondage, and freedom, among others, across the disciplines of race and ethnic studies, history, literary studies, law, economics, sociology and anthropology. Over the course of the next three years we will be staging dialogues across current work and chart new directions for the study of racial capitalism.

Fall 2017 Events

Contact: Mark Jerng - 

Mellon Initiative Feminist Arts & Science Shop

Our initiative draws on the European model of science shops that provide space for communities to participate in the creation of scientific and technological research agendas. We build upon this work by including the arts and specifically orienting our research agendas towards social justice ends. The UCD Feminist Arts & Science Shop will encourage the development of new science-making and artistic and humanistic modes of inquiry by providing a designated platform to co-create new ways of thinking about democracy and knowledge making in a community-engaged way. The initiative is organized around three major themes: 1) Queer Bioethics; 2) Activists Arts and Science and Their Archives; and 3) Decolonizing Science Literacy. “Queer Bioethics” begins to think through and develop new, broader models of engagement with scientific and technological ethics. “Activist Arts and Sciences and Their Archives” is dedicated to unearthing past efforts and developing methodological practices to document how non-experts have engaged in scientific production and to integrate that knowledge within future scientific and artistic endeavors. “Decolonizing Science Literacy” focuses on the development of critical feminist science pedagogies.

Contact: Sara Giordano -, Rana Jaleel -

Critical Militarization, Policing, and Security Studies at UC Davis

Description: We are a working group of scholars at UC Davis that emerged as a response to burgeoning forms of military power. By militarization, we mean both military interventions and the securitization of everyday life. To this end we pursue research that foregrounds the production of subjects under practices of militarization, the technologies that facilitate surveillance and state power, and the contestations to such forms of violence. The group creates an interdisciplinary space where all the various cultural and social implications of contemporary militarization can be considered, discussed, and held accountable.

Some of our reading activities for the 2017-2018 academic year are generously funded by the Davis Humanities Institute. In past years, the group has been supported by various grants from DHI and the UC Humanities Research Institute, Irvine.

In addition, the group collaborates on periodic projects with scholars and artists in the University of California system, other universities, and independent of academia. We also collaborate with programs and departments to organize guest lectures and panels.

Contact: Javier Arbona: 

Research, Narrative, and Performance: Explorations Between the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities

DescriptionThis cluster explores the cross pollination between research and narrative practices in performance studies, social sciences, and the humanities. We will explore how social scientists and humanities scholars can learn from theater and the arts a more playful posture towards research, and a more performative understanding of narrative, and, on the other hand, how theater makers, performers, and artists can learn from social sciences’ methods more nuanced ways to make dramatic representations.

We will use theatrical devising techniques to engage ethnographic questions and material. In this context, theatrical practices will provide us with tools to analyze our findings through the body and through the theatrical representation of narrative and non-narrative events in a theatrical space.

During the academic year of 2017-18, we will learn theatrical devising practices for working with non-theatrical source material (interviews, archival documents, medical and legal reports, various media sources, etc.) to construct narratives for the stage. As part of the cluster, we will organize six two-day workshops. Theater devising’s approach to non-theatrical source material (what anthropologists and sociologists would call empirical material, and historians would call life histories and archival material) has the potential to reveal new aspects of the data collected and analyzed by social scientists or by performers, playwright, and directors.

We will read about performance and ethnography, affect and representation, and challenge traditional approaches to creating narratives in both social sciences and theater by devising narratives collaboratively from shared research material. We will work on shared material that Cristiana Giordano has been collecting on issues of foreign migration to Italy, and the current “refugee crisis” in the Mediterranean and Europe. Giordano’s empirical work and its theatrical rendition investigates the narratives, spaces, and experiences that discussions on the “crisis” and national borders tend to erase. We will draw from different forms of empirical material (field notes, interviews, archival, ethnographic and visual).

By the end of the academic year, we will produce a full-length performance (one and half hour) based on this empirical material, and rendered through the theater devising techniques. You don’t have to be interested in performing in order to be part of this cluster. This is not an acting seminar. We will work collaboratively on writing a text/performance, and each participant will take on the roles they are more interested in and comfortable with.

Fall workshop dates: Full participation to the cluster’s activities is worth 4 credits per quarter.

Saturday/Sunday, October 28-29 (both days 10 am- 12:30 pm; 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm)

Saturday, November 4 (10 am- 12:30 pm; 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm)

Saturday, November 18 (10 am- 12:30 pm; 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm)

Contact: Dr. Cristiana Giordano:   


Description: The UC Davis ModLab is an experimental research laboratory for digital humanities, media operations, and postdisciplinary innovations. The lab is developing new tools and methods to address the challenges faced by scholars working at the intersection of the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Focusing on new media technologies and processes of modification, the lab offers a dynamic and collaborative environment for postdisciplinary modes of research. The principal research programs of the lab include: cultural studies of video games, optical technologies, and interactive media; games and gamification as modes of humanities scholarship; gaming platforms and VR technologies for experimental research; off-the-shelf strategies for digital humanities scholarship; relations of ludic culture with surveillance, securitization, and militarization; and technocultural practices such as modding, hacking, and hactivism.

Contact: Colin Milburn <>


Theorizing Human and Microbial RelationsTheorizing Human and Microbial Relations

Description: “Theorizing Human and Microbial Relations” is a fluid composition of graduate students in the humanities and social sciences across UC Davis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and UCSF — and from fields like Cultural Studies, English, Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy— assembled to foster sustained humanistic and social scientific engagement on and theorization of the science of the human microbiome. Our research questions address the knowledge production processes of microbiome scientists and the social impacts of microbiome research; drawing on interdisciplinary approaches, we critically study this paradigm shift in the biological sciences and public consciousness. Participants are developing individual research projects and mapping advances in microbiome science, as well as building a website to forge connections with other humanistic scholars and audiences outside the university. We carry out our engagement in collaboration with scientists, food producers, artists, and educators and conclude our year-long engagement with a public assembly, featuring the various individuals, collectives, and organizations with which we fostered connections.

Image Credit: s.e. nash, Schizomycetes, Phase 1

Contact: Stephanie Maroney <>

Black Radical ThoughtBlack Radical Thought: Traditions, Aftermaths, Futures

Description: The main goal of this research cluster is to promote critical dialogue, in the form of research, writing, and publications, on black radicalism across the African Diaspora. We will host a symposium that examines the role of intellectuals in imagining, leading, and promoting radicalism and revolution throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. In The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Martinican psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon writes, “Challenging the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of viewpoints. It is not a discourse on the universal, but the impassioned claim by the colonized that their world is fundamentally different” (6). We are interested in how black intellectuals have experienced and described this fundamental difference between the colonized and the colonizer. What are the key concepts black radical intellectuals have developed to understand anti-colonial struggle? How have these concepts evolved as black freedom struggles have shifted over time? What does black radicalism mean in 2016? How can we situate current concepts of radicalism and revolution in relation to previous iterations throughout the black world? Drawing on the work of Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, our conceptualization of black radicalism does not take for granted the “chronological boundary between past and present inherited from antiquity” (Trouillot 5). Instead we are invested in creating a critical framework that can account for the simultaneity of the traditions, aftermaths, and futures of black radicalism and revolution.

Contact: Laurie Lambert <>

Oakland SchoolThe “Oakland School” of Urban Studies

Description: Long appearing at the margins of maps of U.S. and world cities, Oakland, CA, is in the midst of rapid and contested social and spatial change.  These upheavals have turned the city into a center of media attention and capital investment, on the one hand, and struggles for racial and economic justice, on the other.  Comprised of eleven graduate students from the fields of cultural studies, gender and feminist studies, geography, sociology, and city planning, this working group collaborates to identify and analyze the multiple social processes that converge in and emanate from this ambivalent city.  Drawing upon a wide range of theories, archives, and research practices, members of the “Oakland School” consider the historical making and contemporary remaking of the city and region through the lenses of racialization; gentrification and displacement; urban politics and planning; cultural economies; policing, surveillance, and carcerality; and settler colonialism and Indigenous resistance.

Image courtesy of Oakland artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez.

Contact: Trisha Barua <>

AILAIL: The Anthropology of the Image Lab

Description: AIL: The Anthropology of the Image Lab is a venue located in Young Hall 226 at the University of California, Davis, and an online curatorial platform. Its objective is to engage the challenges posed by the Image to both anthropological thinking and art curatorial practice. It is a pedagogical space of conversations, where anthropologists engage contemporary art practices in an expanded field: from media arts, photography, and cinema, to urbanism, architecture, and design, from fashion to advertising.

Contact: Tarek Elhaik <>





MRI Border StudiesMellon Research Initiative in Comparative Border Studies

Description: This Initiative will focus on promoting interdisciplinary, comparative research on the making, unmaking, crossing, and fortification of borders - national, colonial, regional, and continental. Our central thematics are organized as follows, broken down by year: 1) Human rights, citizenship, and racialized belonging (Year 1, 2015-2016); 2) Mobility, militarization, and containment (Year 2, 2016-2017); 3) Protest cultures and transnational solidarities (Year 3, 2017-2018). 

Contact: Sunaina Maira - 

MRI Indian Ocean WorldsMellon Research Initiative “Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds”

Description: This Initiative brings together faculty and graduate students from across campus (Anthropology, Cultural Studies, African American and African Studies, English, Geography, Ethnomusicology, Linguistics, and Religious Studies) at UC Davis. It grew out of an interdisciplinary DHI Research Cluster on contemporary “Indian Ocean Imaginaries.” The Cluster focused visibility on faculty at UC Davis, who have separately approached Indian Ocean cultures and societies in several ways (for e.g. Adejunmobi 2009, 2007; Ng’weno 2001; Smith 2011; Srinivas 2008). The purpose of the Cluster was to create an explicit community of scholars focused on the Indian Ocean world, to provide a venue for mentorship of graduate students who work on parts of the Indian Ocean world, and to be a site for faculty and students to think about Indian Ocean imaginaries together in novel ways.

Contact: Smriti Srinivas, <>, Bettina Ng’weno, <>

MRI Digital CulturesMellon Research Initiative in Digital Cultures

Description: The Mellon Research Initiative in Digital Cultures is designed around innovative research practices that rearticulate the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts with respect to the technosciences. The initiative will convene students and faculty through a series of workshops, conferences, lectures, and media events. We will focus on some the biggest challenges posed by digital technologies today, addressing the politics of surveillance, data mining, gaming and interactive media, intellectual property regulations, the commons, and participatory culture.


MRI Social justice, culture, and insecurityMellon Research Initiative “Social Justice, Culture, and (In)Security”

Description: The UC Davis Mellon Research Initiative “Social Justice, Culture, and (In)Security” was established out of Hart Hall in 2012, following widely and diversely expressed social justice concerns arising from the UC Davis pepper spray incident of November 2011. This campus incident can be read as just one of many local iterations of the widespread social unease accompanying the ongoing reconfigurations of power, knowledge, and resources that are shaping and being shaped by globalization.



MESE seminarMiddle East/South Asia Studies Seminar

Description: The Middle East/South Asia Studies Seminar is a network of graduate students from  UC Davis, Stanford, and UC Berkeley who are working on research projects in and about the Middle East or South Asia.  The seminar meets monthly (occasionally more frequently) at the home of Prof. Suad Joseph.  Each month two of the seminar members present their work.  They send their work, in advance of the meeting, to all seminar members who read the work prior to the meeting.  Seminar members workshop the contribution of their colleagues during the evening seminar.  Members vary over the years coming from Anthropology, History, Cultural Studies, Education, Political Science in recent years.  No units are attached to the seminar. Participation is by permission of Prof. Joseph.  The seminar has been formative – even transformational – for many of the members. 

Contact: Suad Joseph -


Unsettling approaches to performance studiesUnsettling Approaches to Performance Studies Reading Group

Description: Unsettling Approaches to Performance Studies centralizes critical race approaches to Performance Studies. The study group is a collaborative space, where participants' research interests are foregrounded in the readings, discussions, and projects.  The group works toward unpacking some of the ways in which race structures knowledge production and operates in often treacherous and seemingly invisible ways.

Contact: Moradewun Adejunmobi - 




Arab families working groupArab Families Working Group (AFWG)

Description: The Arab Families Working Group (AFWG) is a collective of sixteen scholars from universities, NGOs and research foundations whose work focuses on youth and families in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt and their diasporas. The group has been co-housed at UC Davis and American University in Cairo since 2001.  It has published extensively together and is currently focused on training a new generation of scholars.

Contact: Suad Joseph<>


MRI Environments and SocietiesMellon Research Initiative, "Environments & Societies: History, Literature, and Justice"

Description: This initiative builds cross-disciplinary collaboration in the environmental humanities and humanistic social sciences to undertake the broad rethinking of human-nature interactions that are critical to meeting the environmental challenges of our era.