Jackelyn Hwang, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, was the winner of the 2020 Jane Addams Award for best article. Jackelyn’s innovative research agenda examines the relationship between how neighborhoods change and the persistence of neighborhood inequality by race and class in US cities. We reached out to ask her to discuss her research, and we’re including her responses below. Thanks to Jackelyn for participating in our interview series!
The winner of the 2020 Robert E. Park Award is Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation by Scott Frickel & James R. Elliott. It is part of the American Sociological Association’s Rose Series in Sociology. Below is a discussion with the winners on industrial waste and its legacy in the urban landscape.
Let me start by wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive New Year. 2020 was nothing short of a high speed train wreck. The pandemic and continued police brutality brought on immeasurable suffering and loss, exposing once again the dire consequences of systemic racial inequality. Communities of color have been disproportionally affected by this virus and police aggression. Now more than ever our sociologically-informed, community and urban research is greatly needed, and I implore you to position your work to help fuel social justice efforts aimed at ameliorating racial and spatial inequality.
On the social justice front, the CUSS Council has taken action. First, in November 2019, the Council unanimously approved important by-law amendments. This year you will asked to vote on changes that, if approved, would establish a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. The DEI Committee, under the direction of an elected chair, will undertake activities to understand and reduce racial/ethnic disparities that exist within our section. The establishment of a DEI Committee would demonstrate our section’s steadfast commitment to fairness. I ask that you vote in favor of this timely and needed by-law change.
Second, while we regretfully cannot meet in person in Chicago this summer, our Council has proposed four themed sessions intended to highlight scholarship on important contemporary urban issues. We will have online sessions on the global uprisings and the Black Lives Matter movement; the pandemic and its impact on cities; emerging urban politics and policies; and critical perspectives on injustice embedded in our urban sociology traditions. My hope is that our 2021 ASA sessions will facilitate meaningful discourses both within and beyond the academy. Be sure to submit a paper for one of these sessions by February 3.
Third, our section’s journal, City & Community (C&C), has made strategic changes intended to advance diversity and inclusion. Richard E. Ocejo, C&C’s new editor, has refreshed the journal’s editorial leadership to include new people and perspectives. Moreover, the journal will implement an exciting professional development program for young scholars. This new program will serve as a systematic support structure, along with our section’s annual meeting mentoring initiative, to advance the next generation of talented urban sociologists.
No question, the pandemic has seriously challenged and tested us emotionally, financially, and physically; sadly, we have lost family members, friends, and colleagues. While we will not be together in Chicago this year to comfort one another (or to celebrate our successes), we should take solace in knowing we are part of a special group that produces knowledge to challenge and change our society for the better. Rest assured, in 2022 in Los Angeles, we will be together and we will lecture, laugh, and libate. Until then stay healthy, motivated, and safe! And do not forget to renew your CUSS membership and nominate your colleagues (or yourself) for one of our annual awards!
Being named the 2020 recipient of the Robert and Helen Lynd Award for Lifetime Achievement has been both gratifying and humbling, given the distinguished honorees who preceded me. I was taken by surprise when Kevin Gotham (the Lynd committee chair) first passed along the news last spring. That initial reaction quickly gave way to an appreciation of the award as a collective rather than solo accomplishment. From my undergraduate days to the present, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from and work with many talented and inspiring students, mentors, colleagues, and collaborators.
It is an absolute honor to be the next Editor-in-Chief at City & Community. The journal began publication around when I started graduate school, so there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t known of its existence. Whether from reading its pages, contributing as an author, or assigning its pieces in my courses, it has played an indispensable role in my career. And now getting to run City & Community at this stage in its history, build on the efforts of so many great Editors and scholars, and take it to another level is a dream come true.
According to the US Census Bureau, the majority of Americans live in urban areas. And, as urban sociologists, we’ve known cities matter for a long time, but more and more we’re seeing the rest of society take note. Cities played a major role as the location and backdrop for the mass uprisings for racial justice we saw earlier this year, especially mid-sized cities in the South and Midwest that are often included but not highlighted in our scholarly work. George Floyd’s brutal murder by police in Minneapolis helped to spark the mass uprisings we saw earlier this year and the current civil rights movement, as did Breonna Taylor’s murder in her home by Louisville Metro Police in my hometown of Louisville. In Indianapolis, where I live and teach, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police shot and killed Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose, two incidents which have not received as much national attention but have locally mobilized many activists. These are, of course, only a few cases. Activists and organizers across the country mobilized around these cases, as well as many others that have not received nearly as much national attention.
2020 represented a significant change from how CUSS has managed communications to its members. This process began under our past chairs Miriam Greenberg and Rachel Dwyer. We have now shifted our focus away from a traditional PDF newsletter to a combination of email, our website (comurb.org), Facebook, and Twitter (@ComUrbASA). For instance, current chair Japonica Brown-Saracino has been sending out a monthly digest of section updates and announcements via the listserve. This digest is also posted on our Comurb.org and tweeted out by members of our team. While we are relying more on social media to get information out, we will be collecting items from the past year and posting a PDF. That way we can continue to have an archive of traditional newsletters, even as technology continues to evolve. It also continues the great work of Bill Holt, our newsletter letter editor since 2001.
As we move forward, we welcome suggestions as to how we can better serve CUSS members. This includes using the website to highlight the great work – advocacy, scholarship, and teaching – that is done by you all. We would love to post short essays or editorial-style pieces on Comurb.org. If you are interested, pitch us your ideas.
Under ordinary circumstances, many of us would be preparing for travel to San Francisco. We would be looking forward to gathering together, in person, at our sessions, business meeting, roundtables, and for a reception at the Tenderloin Museum. I am certain that I am not alone in regretting the missed opportunity to engage with one another at our sessions, as well as to talk more informally in a variety of conference settings – from the book exhibit, to the crowded hallways where we would ordinarily gather between panels.
At 20, I fell in love with the Russians, namely Russian literature. The passion of Bolshevik poets whose public readings of their work drew the masses excited me. I cherished the Russian literary thaw that produced the novels of post Stalinist writers and was heart-broken when they were silenced after the fall of Khrushchev. I studied the Russian language in the hope that I could read Dr. Zhivago in the original. Yet the inspiration of what became my life’s work came from Dostoyevsky, a writer from the 19th century.