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The Decent City Initiative Publishes The Cities Papers

The SSRC’s new initiative on The Decent City is premised on the existing and deepening centrality of urban space to human experiences and is grounded by a set of normative questions concerning how the core characteristics of big cities can be mobilized to make human life more just and democratic. These questions are approached through three entry points: urban design and the built environment, human heterogeneity and intergroup toleration, and inequality’s causes and consequences. A “decent” city, in this usage, is not quiet, orderly, or predictable, each of which is alien to robust urban life. The term is meant to imply a site of reflection, research, and policy in a zone between more utopian reflections on the one side and highly focused instrumental policy considerations on the other.

In searching for thresholds of urban decency and means to achieve them, The Decent City is deploying a spatial imagination that promotes interactions between social scientists, humanists, architects, designers, and urban planners. The Cities Papers is a digital collection of thought pieces produced by scholars and practitioners from all these perspectives who participated in several gatherings to further shape this agenda.

Photos credit: "architecture of density 04" and "transparent city 01" by Michael Wolf. All rights reserved.

In Council News

Two new SSRC Working Papers are available for PDF download: “Building an Effective Research Safety Protocol and Emergency Exit Strategies,” by Angélica Durán-Martínez, from the Drugs, Security and Democracy Program series on research security; and “Women in Politics and Policy in Latin America and the Caribbean,” by Mala Htun and Jennifer Piscopo, from the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum series on women in politics.

A new report produced by Measure of America with Opportunity Nation, Historical Report of Opportunity, provides the first statistical measure of national and state opportunity levels over the past four decades [PDF available]. Patrick Nolan Guyer, MOA’s chief statistician, appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss community factors of inequality and other data identified in the report [video]. Additional media engagement includes coverage by National Journal, Nonprofit Quarterly, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, and the Washington Post blogs GovBeat and Wonkblog.

In a commentary for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, Measure of America codirectors Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps share findings from the program’s work on youth disconnection in America’s cities and recommend three sets of actions for communities grappling with the disconnection crisis.

The Education Research Program’s Academically Adrift findings on classroom incentives for the student as consumer were highlighted in a PBS NewsHour interview with Andrew Rossi, director of the Ivory Tower documentary [video available]. Other results from the program’s CLA Longitudinal Study are examined in a Sociology in Focus look at core skills for the job market.

Transregional Research Postdoctoral and International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellow Wazhmah Osman (2013 and 2009) intervenes into the media and communication studies debate on technological determinism with an article for Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society: “On Media, Social Movements, and Uprisings: Lessons from Afghanistan, Its Neighbors, and Beyond.”

Transregional Research Postdoctoral fellow Kevin Schwartz (2013) recommends a reevaluation of Iran’s behavior as a state in an opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun: “An Enemy Revisited: Compared with ISIS, Iran No Longer Seems Like Such a Threat.”

Writing for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, Academia in the Public Sphere grantee Marc Lynch (2010, 2011) asks, “Can There Be an Ethical Middle East Political Science?

Drugs, Security and Democracy Program fellows Corina Giacomello (2011) and Thomas Grisaffi (2013) contributed to the latest issue of the North American Congress on Latin America magazine Report on the Americas, which has as its topic “Reimagining Drug Policy in the Americas.”

Nancy L. Green, codirector of the 2014 Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship research field Immigrants and Their Homeland Connections: Transnationalism in Historical Perspective, has a new book out from the University of Chicago Press: The Other Americans in Paris: Businessmen, Countesses, Wayward Youth, 1880–1941.

From Our Forums

In a Reverberations focus on the interdisciplinary Global Prayers project, humanities scholar Katrin Klingan outlines the knowledge processes framing the project, urban ethnologist Kathrin Wildner shares some of its inventive methodological approaches, and author and curator Jochen Becker reports on a video installation that explores prosperity gospels from a transnational perspective.

At The Immanent Frame, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan writes on “The Impossibility of Religious Freedom,” challenging liberals and scholars to move beyond culture-wars framing of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College decisions, a piece later featured in Salon. Sarah Eltantawi joins the conversation on the future of Egyptian democracy with a deconstruction of “assumed truths.”

On Deadline

Abe Fellowship
Applications Due: September 1

Abe Fellowship for Journalists
Applications Due: September 15

Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship
Applications Due: October 15

Mellon Mays Predoctoral Research Grants
Applications Due: November 1

Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa
Applications Due: December 1