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.

The first major public event launching this Social Justice Initiative was the campus rally at which Angela Y. Davis addressed over 2,000 concerned members of the Davis community who filled the graduation hall. Subsequently a number of Hart Hall’s senior faculty were awarded a Dean’s Mellons Grant for the periods 2013-2016, to be used to pursue the core concerns articulated among the race/ethnic and gender studies faculty and students at Davis. The co-directors of this three-year Mellon funded Social Justice Initiative are: Amina Mama, Inés Hernández-Avila, and Yvette Flores. The vision of this interdisciplinary project is create intellectual dialogue across multiple contexts and communities with a focus on social justice work.

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Research questions:

  1. What do the interdisciplinary fields of gender, ethnic, and area studies contribute to the pursuit of social justice, and how can these roles be enhanced to strengthen public humanities? What could the combined expertise of feminist and ethnic studies contribute to the realization of community at UC Davis?
  2. The current transformations of the relations between state, market and society are placing new demands on the realization of “family” and “community” and the ongoing struggles for social justice, including gender and sexuality equity. What conventional and new livelihood strategies and forms of organizing are evident in social responses to these reconfigurations?
  3. What are the effects of hegemonic national discourses of security on the institutional cultures of selected institutions?