ISSI Research & Programs

ISSI Research & Programs

ISSI sponsors projects and working groups on a range of topics. Check out the links on the right for more research and working groups led by our centers.

Black Lives @ Cal

This new public history project documents the lives of UC Berkeley’s Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni via an accessible and engaging website. One goal of the project is to collect existing information and make it available in one place, and another goal of the project is to identify the gaps and start filling them. For example, when did the first Black student attend UC Berkeley? The answer is not that clear! In addition to focusing on individuals, the project will spotlight key periods of policy changes and collective action and will document trends over time, for example, numbers and percentages of Black faculty.
The project is sponsored by African American Student Development (AASD) and the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI), with support from the Office of the Chancellor and the Black Studies Collaboratory.

Faculty/Staff: Takiyah Jackson (AASD), Stephen Small (ISSI and African American Studies), Gia White (Global International and Area Studies), Laura McCreery (ISSI)

Graduate Student Researcher: Caleb Dawson, PhD Candidate in Education

Undergraduate Research Apprentices: Erzsabet Gonzalez, Skyler Glover, Elle Henry, Daniella Lake, Amari Turner, Isabella Volz-Broughton

For more information, contact

Black American women interrogate European imperialism at the turn of the 20th century

This historical project investigates Black American women and their interrogation of European Imperialism at the turn of the 20th century, the (so-called) Golden Age of Black Nationalism. We know a great deal about what Black men said, and we have significant and growing information on some Black women, including the most well-known women like Ellen Craft, Ida B Wells, Sarah Parker Remond, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, and Mary McLeod Bethune.

One major gap is what Black American women thought and said about European Imperialism, especially in Africa. The goal is to identify, describe and interpret the interventions of prominent African American women from the 1830s (when British slavery was legally abolished) to the 1930s (when Great Britain controlled 25% of the world’s population) around issues of European imperialism. Many women went to Europe and Africa and were involved in anti-imperial and pan-Africanist meetings and organizations and wrote about imperialism in speeches, lectures, letters, in the columns of the Black newspapers, magazines, and journals of the period, and in autobiographies. This project identifies these women, uncovers their many writings, and analyzes their views on imperialism.

PI: Stephen Small, African American Studies

Graduate Student Researcher: Nitoshia L. Ford

Collective Reason

Universities are excellent places to do research. Still, they are often difficult places to think collectively, especially for junior faculty. Collective Reason is a gathering of faculty who seek to think about and through our current moment. Drawing on the Caribbean intellectual praxis of ‘reasoning,’ which is a tradition of mutually supportive and intellectually generative discussions and debates, the group pushes our collective thinking on our society’s pressing questions and challenges. Our group takes the diversity of our interests and expertise and applies them to various pressing questions. Through small scale research activities, seminars with invited speakers, the workshopping of papers/manuscripts, and conversations, we take the opportunity of community to think and imagine freely around a series of intellectual themes. The group is currently closed to new members.

Group Members: Jovan Scott Lewis, Department of Geography; Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Department of Art Practice; Desmond Jagmohan, Travers Department of Political Science; Christian Paiz, Department of Ethnic Studies, Eric A. Stanley, Department of Gender and Women's Studies

Designed Erasure: Mapping Infrastructure and Black Urban Life in West Oakland

This project examines Oakland's planning history (including redlining, urban renewal, transportation infrastructure), and current policy on homelessness that has been generated by both the city and Alameda County. The project examines connections between urban renewal (as "Negro removal") and contemporary policy that constrains the mobility of the unsheltered and unhoused. 
PI: Brandi T. Summers, Geography
Undergraduate Research Assistant: Maya Sapienza

At the Center/Margins of the Pandemic: Southeast Asian American Social and Economic Precarity Before, During, and After the Pandemic

Though much has been written about the effects of the pandemic, we know relatively little of the social and economic impact of COVID on Asian Pacific Americans (APA), and even less on the more vulnerable APA sub-groups. Existing data on Asian Americans are not only limited but also insufficiently disaggregated, and yield little insight into the immediate and longer-term
challenges facing the smaller and harder to access communities. This project seeks to increase and deepen our understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the economic, health, and social wellbeing of Southeast Asian Americans in general, and the less visible Southeast Asian groups such as the Cambodian and Laotian communities in particular. These populations are especially vulnerable because of their concentration in highly impacted economic sectors, persisting social and economic marginality, pre-existing health conditions due to war, state violence, and protracted stay in refugee camps, and limited access to quality care and other resources. Insights into the varied and differential impact of the pandemic are being gathered through the conduct of focus group meetings and interviews of individuals– 18 years of age and older–selected from a cross-section of vulnerable Southeast Asian American populations

Principal Investigator: Khatharya Um, Ethnic Studies
Co-investigator: Julian Chow, Social Welfare

Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy 

The Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy is based at ISSI. With funding from the Social Science Matrix, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Center for Long-term Cybersecurity, Center for Technology Society and Policy, the SMART program, and the Graduate Division, this research project seeks to understand the deeper cultural logics inherent in shifting views on privacy in the modern world as well as the evolution of its meaning historically in the US context. The group gives undergraduate students at all stages the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience as research assistants. Students learn in a diverse, supportive, small group environment. Still trying to figure out if graduate school is for you? Students also learn skills relevant and marketable outside of the research space. If you are an undergraduate student seeking more information on volunteering as a research assistant, students interested in being considered for either credit or volunteer positions can apply at the beginning of each semester through the URAP website. The project is called "I Regret To Inform You That Your Private Information Has Been Compromised." Please email Naniette Coleman ( for more information. 

To make a gift in support of the IRGP, please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "IRGP.

Scholarly Writing Accountability Group (SWAG)

The Scholarly Writing Accountability Group (SWAG) meets for three hour blocks daily (participants do not have to stay for the whole time). During the pandemic, meetings are virtual. SWAG provides a quiet space for students to work on their dissertation chapters, master’s papers, or other writing materials. We set 50 minute timers and take 10 minute breaks throughout the period. The goal is to teach students how to become disciplined about their writing time and to create a community setting for students to talk about writing blocks and frustrations during our breaks. SWAG was started by Professor G. Cristina Mora (Sociology) and is coordinated by volunteer grad students. SWAG is open to all ISSI affliates and Sociology graduate students, please email for more information.