I hold a dual appointment at UC Davis as an Assistant Professor in the departments of American Studies and Design. I'm also affiliated with graduate programs in Cultural Studies, Geography, and Community Development. In addition, I co-direct Critical Military, Security, and Policing Studies, a Davis Humanities Institute-funded working group that brings together graduate students, faculty, and community members to dissect myriad forms of state and proto-state violence.

I'm a geographer with a background in architecture, art, and design. I focus on the emerging field of explosivity studies (how, when, and where things do —or do not— blow up), studying the spatial politics of landscapes shaped by past, present or potential explosions yet to come. My double life as a scholar with current homes in the humanities and the arts reflects my interdisciplinary trajectory. I must admit, I have a difficult time explaining what I do as an academic because (as more than just an academic!) I have cast a wide net searching for the answers, theories, and practices that I relish. Moreover, I have been captivated by many things over the years — buildings, landscapes, archives, infrastructures, oral histories, sounds, and much more. I first studied architecture as an undergraduate and worked in the profession for several years. But overall, my work has certain common threads:
  • I am concerned with: (a) state violence (including police, so often overlooked as alleged "officers of the peace");
  • (b) with how such violence is made material and spatial — or in other words, how such violence is remembered and forgotten in material and spatial ways;
  • and (c), last but not least, with the ways in which violence (and its materiality, thus) functions in relation to the production of race and racism; cultural, ethnic and social identities; and, with the built environment.

To put it ever-so-briefly, I am interested in memory as something spatial, and in tandem, with spaces as archival. Or as Allan Pred more eloquently stated, given his special attention to the embodiment of memory in situated locations that I would like to carry forth:

Every element of collective memory is both acquired and activated through bodily engagement in situated social or economic practices; is formed, reformed, and deformed through the corporeal involvement of women and men in the discourses and activities of everyday life. (1998: 636) 

In addition, I am increasingly more and more interested in ethnographies of grief and grieving, paying attention to how people cope with suffering that emanates from myriad forms of neoliberal violence (direct force as well as environmental distributions), and particularly police violence. Grief operates at varying temporal and spatial scales, with implications for domesticity, work, nationhood, etc. And I'm interested in the sensorial and aesthetic politics of grief. I work through theoretical questions by studying a variety of literatures, mainly drawing from theories of citizenship, borderization, and belonging; critical race and ethnic studies; architecture and design theory; critical urbanisms; and Marxism/post-marxisms.

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and I grew up roaming in and around San Juan and Santurce. This does not make me Puerto Rican per se—after all, many Puerto Ricans identify firstly as US citizens—but I identify as a Puerto Rican who happens to have a United States passport due to brutally imposed territorial circumstances. My experiences as a child and teenager in a place colonized and militarized over centuries by Spain and the US confronted me with the long historical ties between militarization, the production of cities, and memory.

Furthermore, although not as central in my current work, in previous years I have worked on the mutually constitutive ties between the military and the environment, especially with relation to the case of Vieques. In Puerto Rico, I continue to establish cultural exchanges, research, and dialogue with artists and activists there as part of an ongoing commitment to decolonization. Occasionally I also write whenever I can about Puerto Rican disasters, survival, and liberation.

Between 2014 and 2016, I was appointed as a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in American Studies at UC Davis. I was privileged to work under the mentorship of Caren Kaplan. I received my Ph.D. in Geography at UC Berkeley, advised by geography faculty Richard Walker (primary) and Paul Groth, and historian Richard Cándida-Smith. I completed my dissertation with the support of a Ford Foundation Fellowship and a Bancroft Library Award. In addition, I have been a Visiting Critic in Architecture at Cornell University. I also taught in Architecture and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.

Demilit NCR
The New City Reader (2012) Issue 3 – Terra Incognita game board for urban puzzle games; created by demilit with the Istanbul Design Biennial curatorial and design team.

In 2010, I co-founded an experimental landscape arts collective, along with Bryan Finoki and Nick Sowers, that operates under various assumed names. We guide tours, organize events, and produce sound, literary, and visual art pieces. We have completed works for (among others) the Headlands Center for the Arts, Deutschlandradio (Germany), Wolfman Gallery (Oakland), and the 2012 New City Reader at the Istanbul Design Biennial. Recent articles published together include a piece for the Harvard Design Magazine, Volume, and a design fiction ("[In]Visible Sites") that was featured in the exhibition Timing is Everything at the UCSD University Art Gallery. I also frequently collaborate on educational programs with Beta-Local, a not-for-profit art space in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I hold an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in architecture, a discipline that continues to shape my spatial inquiries and ideas, and a master's degree in architecture and urbanism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT's School of Architecture, as mentioned above, I investigated issues of nature and militarism in Vieques under the guidance of Anne Spirn, and committee members Mark Jarzombek and Bill Porter. A peer-reviewed essay from this research appears in Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review.

CV 2 pages june 2022 

Beta-Local Winter Session (Vieques walk): Land, Place, and Visuality