Block Party: From Independent Living to Disability Communalism – on view all Summer!

On exhibit now through summer 2022, Reset: Towards a New Commons, co-curated by Barry Bergdoll and Juliana Barton, at the Center for Architecture in New York City; “an exhibition analyzing architecture’s role in envisioning new dynamics of living and community.”

exhibition view with map, wall mural, and site model of Berkeley CA
Photo: Sam Lahoz

Our submission was Block Party, co-led by colleagues David Gissen (New School), Irene Cheng (CCA), and Brett Snyder (UC Davis). I had a wonderful experience discussing site selection and design strategies with the team, as well as meeting the curators that placed a ton of effort into the accessibility and logistics of the show.

Block Party: From Independent Living to Disability Communalism reimagines the architecture and urbanism of a section of Berkeley, California, through the perspectives of disability and housing justice. Created by a multidisciplinary team composed of disabled and non-disabled architects, artists, and authors, the project asks: What form might a multiracial disability community take today? What kinds of housing and public spaces could support not only “independent living”— a historic demand among disability rights advocates — but also mutual aid and communal flourishing?Street view drawing of disability infrastructure


How Public Scholarship is Helping Designers Rethink Communities From Independent Living to Disability Collectives – Professor Brett Snyder, UC Davis

Block Party in brief at Architect’s Newspaper

Anthony Paletta for Metropolis magazine: “(…)draws on the contributions of disabled and non-disabled architects and seeks to address a range of obstacles to a variety of disabilities; mobility issues are obviously often the most pressing but other disabilities inhibit the use of numerous urban settings. It starts with the exhibition design itself, which includes audio elements and a tactile model that was initially devised to enable collaboration with a blind team member.

Justin Davidson for Curbed: “(…)how Berkeley could evolve into a haven for residents with disabilities. In that egalitarian idyll, a public pathway shaves away a sliver of each home’s backyard — “borrowing” private property, in the project’s idiom — to create a network of accessible pathways”

Block Party: From Independent Living to Disability Collectives – Berkeley, CA
Javier Arbona, University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
Irene Cheng, Cheng+Snyder; California College of the Arts (San Francisco, CA)
David Gissen, Parsons School of Design, The New School (New York, NY)
Rod Henmi, FAIA, LEED AP, NOMA, HKIT Architects (Oakland, CA)
Jerron Herman, Artist and Dancer (New York, NY)
Georgina Kleege, Author; University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
Chip Lord, University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
Brett Snyder, AIA, Cheng+Snyder; University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)

All the teams exhibited with online galleries and multimedia materials are here: 

The Explosivity of Kelp

Uncovering kelp’s hidden past as an ingredient in explosives may have the answer to preserving its future survival under climate change.

The Explosivity of Kelp, at Society & Space open site (part of a forum on everyday militarisms born from our UC Davis – U Sydney collaboratory)

Canoas, cayucos y balsas

Recent award, thanks to the Center for Craft in North Carolina!

Diego de la Cruz Gaitan, MAOF (Materiales y Oficios, or materials and crafts)
Javier Arbona, Assistant Professor

Canoas, Cayucos y Balsas is a materials and process research project for the construction prototypes of a fleet of Caribbean nautical vessels utilizing materials form natives trees constructed with techniques from pre-Columbian times to the present. Our research intents to re-frame our current knowledge of materials and crafts in search of multi-vectorial interactions with other islanders. This research will allow MAOF to reactivate practices of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean archipelago, with the intention of returning the gaze and body to the sea and broaden the understanding of an island that has finite resources. The results and findings of the expedition will be published periodically through notebooks/publications and a website, which will function as a logbook and reference material for other artists and craftsmen.

Event | The Conversation – “Memorials and Monuments: Lessons from Charlottesville, New Orleans, and Port Chicago”

Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Location: 24th Street Theater, Sierra 2 Center,
2791 24th Street, Sacramento, CA 95818

Join us for “The Conversation,” a new public event series hosted by the UC Davis Humanities Institute that invites professors and public intellectuals to consider current issues of the day. The Conversation will offer an open format, including short remarks by each participant as well as plenty of time for questions and discussion by the audience.

In our first installment, we reflect on recent events in Charlottesville and New Orleans, among other places, that have wrestled with how we remember and memorialize the past. Monuments and calls for their removal have become flashpoints for wider debates about our history and identity.

Panelists will include UC Davis Professors Gregory Downs (History), a leading historian of the Civil War and a leader in the effort to create the first National Park site devoted to Reconstruction and emancipation, and Javier Arbona (American Studies and Design), who is completing a project on memorial landscapes, Black Resistance, and World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The Conversation” will be moderated by Professor Jaimey Fisher of German and Cinema and Digital Media, who has written about contemporary Germany’s relationship to its difficult past.

The event is free and open to the public. Please come and join the conversation!

This event is sponsored by UC Davis Humanities Institute

For more information please contact: Becky Wilson,

RSVP here

Trial by the Bay

Recently published:

“Trial by the Bay: Treasure Island and Segregation in the Navy’s Lake” (2017). Urban Reinventions: San Francisco’s Treasure Island. Lynne Horiuchi and Tanu Sankalia, eds. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press: 125-139.


More writings and works here

How to not discuss Puerto Rico…

The American Studies Association, of which I am a member, had a statement on the situation in Puerto Rico, and for me, to be honest… It was not a good statement. I’ll paste here and edit something I posted previously on social media:

With some very good scholars on the Executive Committee, no one apparently thought about directly naming the problems. Furthermore, it was not clear, unfortunately, if they consulted Puerto Rican scholars about this, since I don’t think –although I could be mistaken– that anyone on the Exec Committee identifies as Puerto Rican.

In the statement, there is no mention of the unaccountable and un-payable debt or the Junta government; there are also euphemistic terms like “acquisition,” as opposed to military invasion or occupation. And then, this very baffling point: “nor have they [Puerto Ricans] ever had sufficient representation in Congress.” To be clear, Puerto Ricans have no vote in Congress. None; at all. So “sufficient” sounds like another euphemistic wording. The American Studies Association has a responsibility, given that the membership includes some high school teachers and mostly higher ed faculty, to be much more precise, since I assume this will set some direction of what is taught in classrooms. But furthermore, Puerto Rico’s problem is not one of simple political participation or representation. After all, just look at Hawai’i or Alaska, as fully incorporated non-contiguous U.S. “states” where colonization is very much an ongoing process left unaddressed and unresolved by Congressional representation (and this obviously can be seen within the territorial “mainland” too, no doubt). Why not, if you’re the ASA, shift the discussion to decolonization?

What’s worse, from my perspective, is the perpetuation of a problematic myth that the aftermath of the hurricanes is a symptom of, in their word, “abandonment” and not specific colonial policies of austerity and privatization. (Did the Whitefish scandal seem like a case of abandonment?) In fact, the statement is short and it does not even make clear at first what they are addressing (hurricanes? climate change? colonialism?), until the next-to-last sentence, that is — but it comes with the same mistaken point about abandonment: the “doubled effects of the hurricanes and insufficient federal governmental attention.”

The statement is a meager two paragraphs long and some loose change, calling for donations and this very lazy, chilly line: a call “to continue both to illuminate the histories underlying and the effects of the current U.S. government’s relationship to Puerto Rico, and to mobilize resources for relief efforts toward recovery.” Isn’t that what many in the ASA are trying to do anyway: teach and mobilize efforts? The problem here is that the ASA, with this “abandonment” thesis, among other issues in the short statement, is making that work, in fact, much harder.

Reading on spaces of the Afterblast

I was kindly invited by a creative group to join a reading/showing at E.M. Wolfman bookstore in Oakland, on Thursday May 25, 7-9pm (which cuts incredibly close to my bedtime for a school night!)

Readings and art for the human & nonhuman worlds w/ Elisabeth NiculaKate SchapiraMaya Weeks and myself. There will be projections and readings talking about (my sense so far) marine bioplastics, geologic time and representations, militancy, climate anxiety, logistics and all that.

I’ve been toying around with what I want to discuss that addresses “human and non-human” worlds, and I will probably read a few passages from my work-in-progress manuscript that deal with the spaces of the “afterblast” (after an explosion) and how such fleeting events are recorded by humans and landscapes.

Photo: US Navy, NPS Port Chicago Memorial