• Yaşar Adnan Adanalı, Urbanist, Center for Spatial Justice

Yaşar is an Istanbul-based urbanist, activist and researcher. He is one of the co-founders and the director of Center for Spatial Justice, a non-profit working towards fairer, more democratic, ecological urban and rural spaces. His PhD research in Habitat Unit (TU Berlin) is on the right to land movements of informally developed neighborhoods in Istanbul. Yaşar previously worked as an action planner with urban communities in Dominican Republic struggling against evictions and on refugee camp improvement projects in the Middle East. Since 2010, he has been teaching participatory planning and co-housing courses at Darmstadt Technical University (Germany) as a visiting lecturer. Yaşar is a voluntary consultant for Düzce Hope Homes, the first participatory social housing project in Turkey and one of the World Habitat Awards 2017 finalists. He has fellowships from Ashoka Foundation (2016) and Bertha Foundation (2019).

  • Sai Balakrishnan, Professor of Urban Planning, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Sai Balakrishnan is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Professor in International Development at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, and served as a Postdoctoral Scholar at Columbia Law School’s Center on Global Legal Transformations. She has also worked as an urban planner in the United States, India, and the United Arab Emirates, as a consultant to the UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya, and has served as a Research Fellow at the Land Governance Laboratory (LGLab), a Cambridge-based not-for-profit organisation which studies and disseminates tools for inclusive land resource allocation in rapidly urbanising countries. Through her research and teaching, Balakrishnan focuses on institutions for governing rapid urbanization, and on the spatial politics of land-use and property. Her work has been published in Pacific Affairs, Economic and Political Weekly, and in edited book chapters. Her book, titled “Shareholder Cities: Agrarian to Urban Land Transformations along Economic Corridors in Liberalizing India” is forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Nadine Bekdache, Public Works co-founder and co-director

Nadine is a practicing designer and urbanist. She researches socio-spatial phenomena through multidisciplinary methods; including mapping, imagery and film as both processes of investigation and representation. She is the author of “Evicting Sovereignty: Lebanon’s Housing Tenants from Citizens to Obstacles”. As part of her research on the implications of rent control on urban change and the processes of eviction in Beirut, she co-directed “Beyhum Street: Mapping Place Narratives”. She is also a graphic design instructor at the Lebanese University.

  • Diana Bell Sancho, Urban Planner, Research Affiliate at MIT’s Displacement Research Action Network (DRAN)

Diana is an Urban Planner based in Quito, Ecuador and graduate of the Master in City Planning Program at MIT (‘16), with a specialization in Housing, Community and Economic Development in the global context. From 2016-2018 Diana served as Coordinator of the MIT Displacement Research + Action Network (DRAN), where she continues as a Research Affiliate. Prior to her time at MIT, Diana dedicated 8+ years to policy, organizing and coalition building work on campaigns for migrant justice, affordable housing, transit justice and worker rights at Community Labor United, Massachusetts Immigrant Refugee and Advocacy Coalition, the Massachusetts State House and beyond. Diana’s research interests focus on land governance, development induced displacement, affordable housing, urban segregation and precarious settlements through a rights based lens. As an Ecuadorean-American, Diana has a strong commitment to working in and learning from models of community, housing and economic development rooted in the Latin American experience.

  • Welita Caetano, Front for Struggle for Housing (FLM), São Paulo

Welita is trained in Management and Law, and is the leader of the Frente de Luta por Moradia (FLM) in São Paulo, Brazil, for which she coordinates seven different squatted buildings in the central city. Together with Manuel, who is a film director and president of INCLUSA, an association in defense of human rights and social inclusion, Welita works to disseminate the need for urban reform and the right to the city. Of the more than 400.000 empty buildings in São Paulo, almost 20.000 are in the central city, although the area has lost 20% of  its population in ten years. The squatting of empty buildings in the central city is seen by the FLM as the best way to make visible the need to house homeless families in empty property. Some leaders of the FLM have been recently arrested or threatened of arrest, in the effort of the local authorities to criminalize the struggle for housing (sign a petition here)

  • Joan Chaker, PhD. candidate in History at Harvard University

Joan is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Harvard University. She received a BA in Economics and an MA in History from the American University of Beirut as well as an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics. Her previous research focused on the Ottoman tobacco market. She is currently working on a study of the social transformation of the countryside as it joined the global market over the long nineteenth century, told as a collective biography of the mule drivers of Ottoman Lebanon. More generally her research interests range over Ottoman history, global history, the history of capitalism and the constitutional law of money. In a previous incarnation, she worked as a money-markets trader in Amsterdam and London.

  • Lizabeth Cohen, Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, History Department, Harvard University

An expert on 20th-century American social and political history, Lizabeth Cohen is the author of Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age, forthcoming in October 2019, which considers the benefits and costs of rebuilding American cities through the life and career of urban planner Edward J. Logue. She previously published A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, as well as Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939, which won the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Cohen has published widely in top history and urban studies journals, as well as in edited collections and popular venues including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the American Prospect, and the Boston Herald. She is also coauthor with David Kennedy of a widely used United States history college textbook, The American Pageant. Among her many honors and awards, Cohen has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Radcliffe Institute. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2001, she served as president of the Urban History Association.

  • Mindy Fullilove, Professor of Urban Policy and Health, The New School

Mindy is a board-certified psychiatrist who explores the ties between environment and mental health. She received her bachelor’s degree from Bryan Mawr College and her MS and MD degrees from Columbia University. Dedicated to the psychology of place, Mindy’s research started in 1986 when she linked the AIDS epidemic with place of residence and she continues to focus on the health problems caused by inequality. For the past 30 years, Mindy has been investigating how broken connections between different sections of cities harm public health and explores ways to reconnect them. Previously, Mindy taught at Columbia University and was a lecturer at Parsons. She has published numerous articles and six books including “Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities,” “Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It,” and “House of Joshua: Meditations on Family and Place.” She has received many awards, including inclusion in many “Best Doctors” and two honorary doctorates (Chatham College, 1999, and Bank Street College of Education, 2002).

  • Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, and Visiting Professor of Critical Heritage Studies, Leiden University

Michael Herzfeld is author of eleven books (most recently, Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, 2016) and producer of two films about Rome. Herzfeld — who has conducted extensive field research works in Greece, Italy, and Thailand — currently specializes in nationalism, bureaucracy, craft production and apprenticeship, knowledge politics, and heritage conservation and its social impact (with a comparative focus on Europe and Asia). A former editor of American Ethnologist, editor at large (responsible for “Polyglot Perspectives”) for Anthropological Quarterly, and series co-editor of the book series New Anthropologies of Europe and Asian Heritages, he holds honorary degrees from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki), and the University of Crete, and is a past winner of the J.I. Staley Prize and the Rivers Memorial Medal.

  • Cemal Kafadar, Vehbi Koç Professor of Turkish Studies, History Department, Harvard University

Cemal Kafadar is interested in the social and cultural history of the Middle East and southeastern Europe in the late medieval/early modern era. He teaches courses on Ottoman history, urban space, popular culture as well as history and cinema. His recent publications include “How Dark is the History of the Night, How Black the Story of Coffee, How Bitter the Tale of Love: the Changing Measure of Leisure and Pleasure in Early Modern Istanbul;” “Evliya Çelebi in Dalmatia: an Ottoman Traveler’s Encounters with the Arts of the Franks,” and a book in Turkish: Kendine Ait Bir Roma (Metis, 2017). He has co-edited (with Gülru Necipoğlu and Cornell Fleischer) a two-volume study of the book collection of the Topkapi Palace at the turn of the sixteenth century, Treasures of Knowledge: An Inventory of the Ottoman Palace Library (1502/3–1503/4) (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2019). He is currently working as historical co-adviser (with Suna Kafadar) for the film “Invisible to the Eye,” based on Eremya Çelebi Kömürcüyan’s seventeenth-century travelogue on Istanbul (dir. Zeynep Dadak, forthcoming September 2019).

  • Loretta Lees, Professor of Human Geography, Geography Department, University of Leicester

Loretta Lees is an urban geographer who is internationally known for her research on gentrification/urban regeneration, global urbanism, and urban policy. She has been identified by Urban Studies as the 17th most referenced author in urban geography worldwide and the only woman in the top 20. She co-organises The Urban Salon: A London forum for architecture, cities and international urbanism (see here) and has written/edited 12 books including Planetary Gentrification (2016, Polity Press, Cambridge) and Gentrification (2008, Routledge, NY). Loretta is also a well-known scholar-activist who won the first Antipode Activist Scholar Award 2012 (see here). She has been an expert witness in 3 public inquiries fighting displacement due to gentrification, one of which resulted in a precedent setting win (The right to community: legal geographies of resistance on London’s final gentrification frontier, CITY).

  • Erin M. B. McElroy, Graduate Student in Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Erin McElroy earned their doctoral degree in Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a dissertation project entitled Unbecoming Silicon Valley: Techno Imaginaries and Materialities in Postsocialist Romania. This project analyzes the politics of space, race, technology, and displacement in Romania and Silicon Valley, as well as modes of resistance and deviance. Erin is also cofounder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a counter-mapping and digital storytelling collective that documents dispossession and resistance struggles upon gentrifying landscapes, focusing upon the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City (see here). Recently, Erin cofounded the new Radical Housing Journal, a peer-reviewed journal bringing together scholar-activist housing justice work transnationally. Currently, Erin is a postdoctoral researcher at NYU’s AI Now program, and is in the midst of launching a new project that investigates the artificial intelligence behind property technology, looking to the enfolding of data and property regimes.

  • Steve Meacham, Community organizer at City Life Vida Urbana

Steve has been an organizer for 42 years.  He has been active in movements around worker rights, housing justice, and transforming the war economy. He worked for 9 years as a welder in Quincy Shipyard, were he was part of many labor struggles against  the corporate owners of the shipyard. Since 1999, he has been an organizer with City Life Vida Urbana, where he has helped develop their radical model of community organizing. “Meacham and his colleagues at City Life employ a community organizing strategy they call the sword  and shield. The ‘shield’ is a strategy of legal defense: teaching City Life members about their rights under the law, plus providing access to volunteer legal assistance. The ‘swor'” is a public relations strategy, where City Life organizes protests in front of banks, and eviction blockades in front of people’s homes. For these protests, City Life tries to attract as much media attention as possible, trying to draw public scrutiny towards what they argue are unfair banking and eviction practices in their community”  (see here).

  • Dominic Moulden, Community organizer, Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE) DC

Dominic T. Moulden is a longtime resource organizer at Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE DC), a collectively-led organization that builds people power and economic and racial equity in Washington, DC. He is a frequent lecturer at various universities and conferences regarding equitable revitalization, cooperative economics, affordable housing, workplace democracy, community development, and public policy. He is currently teaching “Housing Organizing in DC: The Right to the City” at the University of the District of Columbia. Moulden is also a community-accountable photographer and social justice documentarian. His work has been exhibited most recently in MICA Place’s “Portraits Of People We Love” exhibition curated by Sarah McCann. Moulden’s work is in private collections and has been exhibited in Artspace (Washington, DC) and Studio 21 Gallery (Washington, DC) as well as shortlisted for the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Interactive Exhibition Gallery. A native of east Baltimore, his images celebrate Black love and resilience while providing uncompromising witness to the ongoing displacement of Afrodiasporic people in Baltimore and elsewhere in the Americas. His creative practice and organizing work are both dedicated to fostering a culture of health that includes art, joy, and radical resource redistribution.

  • Lisa Owens, Executive Director at City Life / Vida Urbana

Lisa is an educator and community builder. A long time Boston resident, she has supported a number of local grassroots social justice organizations in a variety of capacities, including: executive director, board member, donor, and volunteer. She is currently the Executive Director at City Life Vida Urbana, which is a national leader in the anti displacement movement. An adjunct faculty member at the Boston Campus of Springfield College’s School of Human Services, she teaches courses on structural racism and US social welfare policy, participatory action research, designing community projects, and nonprofit management and leadership. Lisa has a Master of Science degree with a concentration in Organizational Management and Leadership.

  • Stefano Portelli, Researcher, Leicester University, affiliate at Harvard’s Department of Anthropology

Stefano is a cultural anthropologist engaged in the defense of self-built and self-managed peripheral neighborhoods from the threat of eviction and displacement. He has developed field research in the cities of Managua, Casablanca, Rome and Barcelona, focusing on  the social effects of development-driven displacement and planned demolitions. He coordinated the International Alliance of Inhabitants’ initiative Repensar Bonpastor, aimed at providing alternatives to the demolition of a working-class neighborhood in Barcelona, which involved anthropologists, architects, activists, and residents, and wrote the book La ciudad horizontal (Bellaterra, 2015) on the social impact of the demolition (see here). The book was published in Catalan, Spanish and Italian. He is the founder of the working group on Urban Peripheries of the Catalan Institute of Anthropology, a member of the Observatory on Anthropology of Urban Conflict within the University of Barcelona, and an editor of the Italian journals Tracce urbane and Lo stato delle città. He is currently a Marie-Curie fellow at the University of Leicester’s Department of Geography, and an affiliate with Harvard’s Department of Anthropology. He is working on the effects of gentrification and displacement on folk religion in the city of Casablanca (Morocco).

  • Abir Saksouk, Architect, Public Works co-founder and co-director (Skype-in)

Abir graduated as an architect in 2005, and later did her masters in Urban Development Planning. She has been involved in several research projects in Lebanon, including the history of informal suburbs and the social production of shared spaces in the city. She produced related publications, such as “This Sea Is Mine” and “Making Spaces for the Public: The Story of the Beirut’s Dalieh”. Her interests include exploring how community engagement could be employed in planning and actively shaping the future of cities. She is also co-founder of Dictaphone Group (2009).

  • Aleksandar Shopov, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich; community organizer, Istanbul

Aleksandar Shopov is a historian with interests in economic and environmental histories of the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean. His research and activism have focused on the history of and present-day debates about urban agriculture, especially in Istanbul. He received his MA from Sabanci University in Istanbul in 2007 and his PhD from Harvard University in 2016. His dissertation explored connections between Early Modern farming manuscripts in Ottoman Turkish and Arabic, the rise of agricultural capitalism, and environmental change in the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean. He previously held fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks Library in Washington DC, the Research Center for Anatolian Civilization in Istanbul, the Center for Mamluk Studies in Bonn and Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. Starting from September 1st, 2019, he will be a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

  • Stavros Stavrides, Professor of Architectural Design and Theory, National Technical University of Athens

Dr. Stavros Stavrides, architect and activist, is Professor at the School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, Greece, where he teaches graduate courses on housing design (social housing design included), as well as a postgraduate course on the meaning of metropolitan experience. He has published numerous articles on spatial theory and urban struggles. His books: The Symbolic Relation to Space (Athens, 1990), Advertising and the Meaning of Space (Athens, 1996), The Texture of Things (with E. Kotsou, Athens, 1996), From the City-as-Screen to the City-as-Stage (Athens, 2002 National Book Award), Suspended Spaces of Alterity (Athens, 2010), and Towards the City of Thresholds (in English, 2010, in Spanish, 2016 and in Turkish 2016). His research is currently focused on forms of emancipating spatial practices and urban commoning, characteristically developed in his last books Common Space: The City as Commons, (2016 in English, in Greek 2018 in Turkish 2018 and in Portuguese, forthcoming), and Common Spaces of Urban Emancipation (forthcoming in English). He has lectured in European and Latin American Universities on urban struggles and practices of urban commoning.

  • Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe, Researcher, University of Basel

Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe is an anthropologist, architect and instructor. Since her doctoral studies at Harvard (Graduate School of Design, Middle Eastern Studies, Anthropology, Gender Studies), she engages in research with a diverse range of actors who are involved in and impacted by urban and social transformation. Interested in methodological explorations that connect ethnography, design and critical urban studies, Aylin organizes seminars, lectures and workshops for diverse audiences as part of her project Engendering the City ( As postdoctoral scholar, she is currently involved in the interdisciplinary SNF project Visual Communication in Urban Planning Processes at the University of Basel and the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Switzerland. She focuses on participatory images, social performances and the formation of knowledge communities who negotiate their desires and visions of belonging to the city over collaboratively produced artifacts (

  • S’bu Zikode, Elected President of Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA

S’bu Zikode is the founding President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the largest slum dwellers movement in post-apartheid South Africa. He was raised by a single mother, a domestic worker, in the village of Estcourt (KwaZulu-Natal midlands). He lived in the Kennedy Road shack settlement, and became the chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee. Since 2005 he serves as the elected head of Abahlali movement, currently affiliating thousands of slum dwellers from over thirty settlements around the country, though mainly in the port city of Durban. The movement campaigned extensively against the evictions caused by the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and supported the occupation of unused lands. It obtained a historic victory at the Constitutional Court with the approval of the “slums Act”, a victory for all the impoverished and marginalized South Africans, presented by the government as its answer to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). However, Abahlali’s affiliates suffer constant harassment, arbitrary detentions, and frequent threat of violence; S’bu himself had to flee from his house with his family in 2009. He believes that real progress on urban issues can happen only when the social value of land is privileged over its commercial value (umhlaba wokuhlala nokuphila).