Anchoring Wealth: A People-and-Place Approach to Local Economic Development through Worker Cooperatives in Cleveland

Anchoring Wealth: A People-and-Place Approach to Local Economic Development  through Worker Cooperatives in Cleveland

Worker cooperatives—businesses that workers collectively own and manage—offer an opportunity to ‘anchor’ wealth in the community, particularly in communities where deindustrialization has led to high unemployment and disinvestment in community institutions. Cleveland is one such Rust Belt city: greater Cleveland ranks in the top 10 metropolitan areas for concentrated poverty, with 28.2% of the metropolitan area’s poor residents living in extremely poor neighborhoods.

 

In 2009, a broad group of stakeholders in Cleveland came together to try to address the city’s economic development challenges by means of an innovative ‘place-and-people-based strategy'—Evergreen Cooperatives.

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Constructing a College Town: Displacement in a Student Housing Building Boom

Constructing a College Town: Displacement in a Student Housing Building Boom

Waterloo, Ontario, a city of about 100,000 people in a metropolitan area of roughly half a million, is home to both the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University. Substantial increases in enrollment at these institutions over the 2000s and early 2010s have contributed to a recent building boom in privately-developed, off-campus, purpose-built student apartments centred on the Northdale neighbourhood, located between the two universities. While the formerly middle-class postwar suburban neighbourhood dominated by single-detached bungalows had previously been increasingly occupied by student renters, the municipality has since acted as an enabler by rezoning much of the area to accommodate high-rise residential towers—in some cases up to 25 storeys. These drastic urban changes engender displacement in a number of forms across spatial scales ranging from the local to the transnational and at various temporal moments.

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New York City’s High Line: Is an Evaluative Framework Problematic in the Public Sector?

New York City’s High Line: Is an Evaluative Framework Problematic in the Public Sector?

As we become more cynical of the federal government’s ability to get things done, there is a growing movement to empower cities to step up and take more control over their own economic destinies by “measure[ing] what matters.”

Measurement is often carried out under an evaluation framework that is set up to identify priority areas for growth and then determine progress toward reaching the desired outcome. Evaluation frameworks are one of several tools appropriated from the private sector that bring a data-driven approach into the public sector (and also, increasingly, in the nonprofit sector).

The High Line – a nearly one-and-a-half-mile linear park in Manhattan built on an elevated section of a disused railroad trestle – is a useful case in considering both the effectiveness and problems of an evaluative framework.

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Collateral Damage for Global Capitalist Production: An Industrial Disaster in Karachi

Collateral Damage for Global Capitalist Production: An Industrial Disaster in Karachi

On September 11, 2012 a fire broke out in a garment factory, located in Baldia Town, Karachi, Pakistan (on the same day, incidentally, another fire broke out in a shoe making factory in Lahore, another urban center in Pakistan).

Baldia Town is located inside the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) in the Karachi metropolitan area. Reportedly, 314 people died in the garment factory fire, which was said to have erupted due to a short circuit, and over 600 were seriously injured, while 100 were rescued.

When the fire finally died down after 12 hours, the extent of the damage came into full view: the loss of life had been this significant due to the exit doors being locked from the outside, which trapped workers inside the blazing structure. Locking doors is a common practice in production industries in Pakistan to discipline labor. The practice allows factory owners to make sure workers don’t take any unauthorized breaks.

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Geographies of Tech Wealth: San Francisco to "Silicon Border"

Geographies of Tech Wealth: San Francisco to "Silicon Border"

As the companies, workers and wealth of Silicon Valley creep north into the city of San Francisco, the effects of an industry with a relatively small but highly paid labor force are leading to widespread social unrest. Embodied in the symbolic protests around “Google Buses,” lower-income residents are reacting to tech’s ability to produce so much wealth that is thinly distributed to a small labor force, disinvested from  local infrastructure (with private transportation), and funneled to comically useless purposes like the “Google Barges” mysteriously floating in the Bay. However, conversations about tech wealth are often limited to its distribution—with even mainstream economists (as well as The Economist) conceding that, “Facebook will never need more than a few thousand employees.” Clearly, the other side of this is production; even with its relatively small labor force, Facebook can generate billions in wealth and profits. Instagram, the hip photo sharing mobile application, famously had only 13 employees when it sold for $1 billion (that’s around $77 million per employee).

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Crowdsourcing 2.0: Why Putting the Slum on a Map is not Enough*

Crowdsourcing 2.0: Why Putting the Slum on a Map is not Enough*

There was a time—not too long ago—when informal settlements the size of small cities were practically invisible. Large and empty beige-gray fields, intercepted by an occasional thin blue line, signifying water, and several thicker, windy white lines that stood for major roads, would pop up on the computer screen when searching for infamous slums such as “Kibera” on Google Maps. The information void stood in stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of people living in Kibera, ironically tucked away between some of the city’s most valuable and celebrated resources: the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Ngong Forest and the Nairobi dam.

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Fear and the Urban Form

Fear and the Urban Form

“I don’t mind the American soldiers on our streets. If I could talk to them I’d ask: Why are you so afraid of us? Why do you fear us so much?”

So answered my Afghan friend, when I asked him how he felt about the American troops parading the streets of Kabul. I expected him to be appalled by the invasion on his privacy, or sovereignty. But what appalled him most was their fear, and how it seeped into his everyday life. When he looked at them too long, they pulled out their gun, he said. I thought the high walls and barbed wires of Kabul’s new architecture conveyed the same message.

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The Significance of Community in Modern Planning Theory

The Significance of Community in Modern Planning Theory

David Chavis’ 1990 article, “Sense of Community in the Urban Environment: A Catalyst for Participation and Community Development," highlights the effects that perception of environment, social networks, and how residents’ sentiments about their communities can further influence the behaviors and perspectives of others. The article further emphasizes the importance of citizen participation in community organizing and explains why it has been regarded as key to improving the quality of the physical environment, enhancing services, preventing crime, and improving social conditions. 

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Bogotá’s Bucolic Exodus: Aspirations of a Rural Life or Suburban Sprawl?

Bogotá’s Bucolic Exodus: Aspirations of a Rural Life or Suburban Sprawl?

Yearning for a rural lifestyle is a legitimate desire for all city dwellers. It is more than understandable to think about a nicer place if you can afford it, considering that “nicer” often means more greenery and nature. Nevertheless, countryside living is not only an aspiration for people in Bogotá who are planning a systematic exodus from the city’s current sense of collapse, but also for displaced rural people who try to make a living in the city. Sometimes there is a situation of urban dwellers colonizing farmers’ land, or the current national social illness of forced displacement.

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This Is Our Home

This Is Our Home

I don’t remember the first time I saw a homeless person
You can’t find one of those in Lexington, Massachusetts
Birthplace of the American Revolution
Red pavement without payment of litter,
Elegant boutiques, dainty planted trees
Cul-de-sacs curled around mansions
Little girls boys bright, bubbled futures – so few chills
For want is no friend to upper middle class glut
Fear does not feed on green pesticide-not-quite-grass
As dreams are blown from mouths like bubbles – fragile, wet, still steaming
Weightless they cling to skin, nesting, become another skin, home
My home
But if you can’t find a home here, then you have no home
This town is not for the homeless.

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Redefining Shrinking Cities

Redefining Shrinking Cities

Shrinking cities have been the subject of much conversation in recent years. With Detroit filing for bankruptcy protection and the growing concern about aging cities in Europe, the discussion is gathering ever more momentum. In a climate of hasty blanket statements and one-size-fits-all solutions, Aksel Olsen takes a step back to critically examine the phenomenon of shrinking cities, in order to find real, practical solutions.

A significant number of cities and regions across the US and Eastern Europe currently face population decline, economic contraction, or both. The ‘greying of Europe,’ where nearly a third of the population will be 65 or over by 2060, is increasing pressure on social services, urban infrastructure, and the labor supply.

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The Battle of Baxter Creek: Resolving Power Struggles in a Community Green Space

The Battle of Baxter Creek: Resolving Power Struggles in a Community Green Space

This is a tale of a well-intentioned stream restoration project in a residential park-neighborhood of Richmond, CA that sparked a community power struggle. The unintended consequences of the restoration left the neighborhood divided. Neighbors who wanted to reduce criminal activity in the park were pitted against those attempting to promote local pride with aesthetic improvements. It provides an interesting case study bothfor understandingsuccessful urban creek restoration and neighborhood-level politics.

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Vestiges of San Francisco’s Unbuilt Waterfront

Vestiges of San Francisco’s Unbuilt Waterfront

San Francisco has oftenserved as a blank canvas since its rapid rise to prominence after the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s – the subject of countless visions for how the built environment should be designed. Whilesomewereoutlandish and others more grounded, the many ideas advanced over the years for guiding the City’s development have each presented a roadmap for moving forward, complete with nested values of what is most important for the future. Such is the subject ofUnbuilt San Francisco – an exhibit currently presented at five locations around the Bay Area, including at UC Berkeley (more details below). On display are plans, renderings, models, and other media depicting unrealized visions for the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of these proposals, such as a BART line running into Marin County, many wish had been built; others, like Marincello, a 30,000-person community in the now-preserved Marin Headlands, we cannot imagine advancing today. The exhibit covers a journey of great breadth, ultimately leaving the viewer with anuneasy sense of what could have been.

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The Small Indiscretions Of Lagos

The Small Indiscretions Of Lagos

An article in South Africa's Mail & Guardian boldly declares: “Nigeria's property boom is only for the brave.” Lagos is one of the continent's fastest urbanizing, rapidly expanding, bursting at the seams, oil-financed megacities. In this frenzy for investment, migration, and growth, Africa's amorphous--and apparently brave--middle class persists in jockeying for space in an exponential metropolis. So, too, does international real estate capital. Making space for its clean landing in Lagos demands at times the material expansion of the city, dredging the lagoon to build the new high-end enclaves of urban investment. And while real-estate interests demand firm ground, Lagos' slums barely stay afloat.

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St. Louis’ Ballpark Village: Subsidizing the Status Quo

St. Louis’ Ballpark Village: Subsidizing the Status Quo

Some see the rising steel structures in downtown St. Louis as milestones in a long-awaited project, others as an unwelcome reminder: as construction on the Cardinals’ Ballpark Village becomes more visible, controversy surrounding the $650 million development has also grown.

Ballpark Village has been envisioned as a new downtown destination for over a decade, but like thousands of other developments nationwide, remained just a vision until earlier this year due to the recession. The 2007 plan included high-rise condominiums, bars, shops, restaurants, plus the introduction of a street grid intended to integrate the project into the surrounding downtown neighborhood. The current construction, however, will include none of the mixed-use features, and replaces much of the planned development with a bemoaned surface parking lot.

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Landscapes of Abundance… or Debt & Decay?

Landscapes of Abundance… or Debt & Decay?

Greece. The word brings to mind a dazzling array of images. Whitewashed houses topped with cobalt blue roofs. Windmills and grape vines. Anthony Quinn dancing with a glass of ouzo by the sea. Yet what the word does not automatically trigger is desperate landscapes comprised of abandoned, half-constructed homes.

This article explores the vernacular architecture of Greece (in particular the island of Santorini), and also investigates such landscapes in times of economic debt & crisis. As the US government finally reaches a deal to end government shutdown and avoid default, we can look to other countries for precedents regarding how debt crises affect building, planning and constructed landscapes at the local level. This isn’t an alarmist cry against the certainty of a debt-ridden future. Instead, I tracethe possibilities of how debt affects the built environment, and ask if we should begin thinking about parallel models and case studies. Although Greece and its islands may comprise a much smaller geographic scale than the US or Canada, it is an instructive example and microcosm that we can learn from.

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World-Class Urbanism: A Glance at TEDCity2.0 and Place-making in the 21st Century

World-Class Urbanism: A Glance at TEDCity2.0 and Place-making in the 21st Century

What defines the world-class city?

Who defines the world-class city?

These are the questions with which University of California Berkeley professor of City Planning Ananya Roy begins her headlining talk at TEDCity2.0. Roy takes the audience through an examination of the “cottage industry” of city officials, advocacy groups, and others who spend countless hours pondering this notion of world-class city identity. In municipalities across the globe, from Shenzhen, China, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, local leaders want to know whether they have the “it” factors for achieving world-class city status.

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A New Mid-Market Street: Who is Left Behind?

All eyes seem to be on San Francisco’s Market Street these days. A long-stalled planning effort to redesign the street to improve conditions for transit, bicycling, and walking – dubbed the Better Market Street project – is at last progressing, with a final design concept being decided upon in the coming months. The many agencies involved in the project have struggled to create a unified vision for the corridor, since its character is so multifaceted and the street serves many competing roles. The backbone of San Francisco’s transportation network and its cultural center, Market Street is arguably the City’s most important street. Cutting diagonally from the waterfront on the edge of the Financial District all the way to the foot of Twin Peaks, Market Street is simultaneously a connector, a dividing line, and a place of its own.

Despite the slow progress of the Better Market Street project to reorganize mobility along the corridor, many land use and other place-based changes are already well underway. Along Market Street’s long-distressed Mid-Market / Civic Center section, high-profile technology firms like social networking giant Twitter are moving in, and their wealthy, well-educated workforce is following close behind. Such a rapid shift in demographics is changing the character of the area, leaving one asking: whose interests matter and who is being left behind?

Mid-Market has long been a place of concern – almost every Mayor in recent memory has made efforts to “clean up” the so-called blighted area. Directly adjacent to the Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhoods, this middle section of Market Street is troubled by homelessness, drug addiction, prostitution, and other quality-of-life issues. On some blocks, almost half of storefronts are vacant and many buildings are falling into disrepair. Attempts to spark vitality by reviving the area’s roots as a theatre and arts district have only been somewhat effective. Now, the new concept is to reorient Mid-Market into a technology hub, which means remaking the area to attract newcomers, largely to the detriment of current residents.

In 2011, San Francisco officials enacted a package of loans, grants, and tax breaks to lure investors to Mid-Market. Though controversial, the plan seems to be producing results. Twitter’s arrival last year was the subject of most headlines, and other big technology firms like Dolby Labs and mobile-payment service Square have also recently moved into the area. But the allure is not just tax breaks – younger workers are increasingly forgoing life in the suburbs for a more lively urban experience. The advent of corporate shuttle buses carrying thousands of workers who live in the City to their jobs south of San Francisco each morning makes this point very clear. Tech firms are realizing this and are beginning to move the center of gravity from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, situating themselves where their employees want to live and work. Retail businesses are correspondingly turning-over, with expensive coffee shops, gourmet restaurants, and boutique chocolatiers taking their place. Change is afoot.

By early next year, the 754-unit luxury apartment complex NeMa (standing for “New Market”) will be complete, bringing thousands of new affluent residents to the area. A good number will work in the burgeoning tech industry. Mid-Market’s revitalization involves a very real change in the area’s identity, as the City caters to those who stand to bring the most capital into the area, with little attention given to the thousands who live on the streets and in low-rent housing. Just last month, police shut down an over 30-year tradition of Tenderloin residents playing chess on Market Street’s sidewalk – one of the corridor’s only visible images of community. SFPD Capt. Michael Redmond said the games had “turned into a big public nuisance” and he suspected they were “a disguise for some other things that are going on,” such as drug dealing and gambling. This once-forgotten stretch of Market Street is suddenly valuable, and the last thing the City wants to do is scare affluent people away.

What will all these changes ultimately mean for the neighborhood? Market Street will surely continue to be a place where people of all walks of life come together, but a process of harsh gentrification is nevertheless occurring. As Mid-Market reorients itself to be attractive for a younger and more affluent demographic, current lower-income residents are viewed as a nuisance – an expendable population tolerated only until renewal takes-off. San Francisco needs to reflect on the type of city it wants to be. As things are going, there will need to be a big change in perspective, unless it wants to relegate itself to being a playground for the rich.

Mark Dreger is working towards his Masters in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, concentrating in transportation and urban design. He is a San Francisco native and interested in the nexus between systems of mobility and the public realm.

How to Stop the City of Berkeley’s Criminalization of the Homeless

One of the most popular pieces of advice to incoming students concerns walking around People’s Park and Shattuck Avenue, two of the most popular homeless encampment areas. While some claim that “no story of Berkeley is complete without the story of the homeless, whose presence has become familiar to residents,” many avoid these areas because they wish to avoid either the homeless themselves, their belongings (e.g. the sight and spread of their tattered blankets) or their companions (e.g. cats, dogs and other pets). Particularly on Shattuck Avenue, the downtown area where many local stores and restaurants are located, business owners express resentment, claiming that the homeless people have affected their daily operations. They have urged the city government to do something.

There have been recent attempts. The City of Berkeley proposed a controversial ballot measure to ban anyone from sitting or lying at the sidewalks during the day through Measure S, otherwise known as Civil Sidewalkers, in late November 2012. First-time violators would face a penalty of $75 or community service, while subsequent violations could be charged as misdemeanors. Measure S was voted down by a majority of Berkeley voters.

The message is clear: as the measure would have forbidden the basic activities of the homeless in commercial areas, it was really aimed at reducing the visible signs of homelessness. As advocates of the measure claimed, “living on the street is unhealthy, and sends people into a downward spiral” while “keeping shoppers away and hurting local merchants.” In their opinion, the assumed benefits of Measure S were to improve the quality of life of the homeless community by transferring them to the appropriate social services and to increase economic activity of local merchants in the area.

But how likely are policies such as Measure S able to accomplish what they are intended to? According to an article published by the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the UC Berkeley’s School of Law, “Will Berkeley’s ‘Measure S’ increase economic activity and improve services to homeless people,” the benefits are “neither proven nor promising.” Indeed, a similar sit/lie law, passed in San Francisco, was proved to be a failure. According to a recent report from the City Hall Fellows, the measure is radically ineffective in dissuading the city’s homeless from sitting on pavements, and it poses an extra cost to the police force, whose time could probably be better spent on inspecting other activities.

Although voters in a city that is no stranger to political movements said “no” to Measure S, Berkeley is far from having ended anti-homeless efforts by the city government. The victory for homeless rights advocates has proved extremely short-lived: Councilmember Jesse Arreguín has proposed a new series of actions to target the homeless community, dubbed the “Compassionate Sidewalks Plan.” The Compassionate Sidewalks Plan convenes a group of representatives to develop new regulations and law enforcement strategies based on consensus. But certain residents and community activists speculate that this plan is simply a masked version of Measure S, only this time more stakeholders—community members and government officials but not homeless people – are included in drafting a new measure.

Should the homeless be wiped off the streets of Berkeley simply because their appearance seems to deter shoppers and threaten the city’s image? At the very least, I believe, decisions about public space should not be weighted solely in favor of profit.

It is possible that the Compassionate Sidewalks measure would start a trend of criminalization and discrimination in Berkeley against those who are in need. The danger is that if any such measure was passed, the trend would officially be established, could be hard to terminate, and potentially lead to laws that further target homelessness and associated activities (e.g. cooking and congregating in public). Even if the policy successfully displaced the homeless community from the city’s surface, they will only migrate from one place to another, unseen from public view. In the absolute worst case, a sense of alienation is created among the needy, which further intensifies the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Compassionate Sidewalks is a thinly veiled attempt to hide homelessness, and it undermines efforts that could have addressed the true roots of the problem. Therefore, for incoming students, my alternative piece of advice would be to learn about the transient population first-hand instead of passively consuming formulated opinions about homelessness. A good start would be to volunteer with a student group like the Suitcase Clinic, or to visit People’s Park and Shattuck Avenue and talk to the homeless face to face instead of shying away uncritically.

Allista Cheung is an undergraduate student in Economics and City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. She can be reached at allista.cheung@gmail.com.

Third Nation or Trans-Nation? Remapping the US-Mexico Borderlands

UC Berkeley Professor of City and Regional Planning Michael Dear’s ambitious new book, Why Walls Won’t Work, offers an engaging view into the everyday lives of residents on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Dear prompts a critical re-evaluation of our understanding of the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico, and his timely discussion is relevant to the proposed federal immigration bill, which, if passed, will likely spur further border securitization. Central to Dear’s argument is a framing of the borderlands stretching from southern California to the Gulf of Mexico as a “third nation,” distinct from the U.S. and Mexican nation states. However, by proposing this spatial category, Dear reproduces a territorial model for understanding a region largely defined by its tumultuous engagement with and subversion of the nationalist (territorializing) claims and technologies of the U.S. and Mexican governments. Borrowing a term from anthropologist Nicholas De Genova, I will suggest that instead of redrawing an alternative boundary, we should approach the region as a “transnational conjunctural space,” (see De Genova’s Working the Boundaries).

Dear stakes his provocative assertion that the barrier will fail based on the historic and continued practices of transnationality (and economic interdependence) that undermine the wall’s claims of territorial national sovereignty. Drawing on borderlands historiography, Dear takes us back to the Comanches raids along the southern border prior to the U.S.-Mexican War (see Brian DeLay’s illuminating War of A Thousand Deserts) to suggest that the borderlands share more than a common history, but also blurred cultures, value systems, and practices of mutuality—in short, what Dear identifies as an alternative nationalism. Dear highlights the two dimensions that compose the “third nation’s” nationalism. Firstly the crossings, tunnels, economic interdependence, and other material exchanges that make up what Dear calls the “third nation before the wall,” and secondly, the cultural and language exchanges that make up what Dear calls the “third nation of the mind.” However, Dear for the most part engages these dynamics as parallel, rather than intersecting and inseparable. An illustration of this approach would be a focus on the ways that transnationality is experienced unevenly and unequally by borderlands residents, (for a rigorous analysis of the “nation form” see Manu Goswami, 2002).

Daniela De Leo, in her review of Dear’s book in Volume 26 of the Berkeley Planning Journal, questions the efficacy of a nationalism operating outside a formal nation-state. Perhaps this ambivalence comes from the lack of physical mediums through which nationalism can be performed and distributed in non-state spaces (Benedict Anderson’s famous example of the printing press in Western Europe comes to mind). I share De Leo’s concern. In the southern borderlands, these potential mediums are violently disrupted by physical and legal barriers—or more precisely, access to existing mediums is highly unequal. As geographer Doreen Massey would put it, “different social groups, and different individuals, are placed in very distinct ways in relation to these flows and interconnections.”

From the privileged perspective that comes with U.S. visibility, transnational fluidity seems remarkable. But from the perspective of Mexican citizens, physical transnationality can only be experienced after years of paperwork, steep fees, and too often, the risks involved with undocumented entry into the US. Similarly, cultural exchanges and economic interdependencies are highly uneven and often perpetuate inequality.

Alternatively, UC San Diego architect Teddy Cruz looks at borderlands through the lens of political economy, focusing on the vastly uneven experiences of transnationality along the border, resource flows, and the particular effects of borderlands capitalism. Instead of a coherent alternative nationalism, Cruz sees creative informality, which he argues, forces us to develop a new political language and spatial categories.

I do not suggest that alternative nationalisms can only emerge from state formations or that the “nation form” is an outdated frame, since nationalist movements from India to South Africa suggest otherwise. But in the US-Mexico borderlands, where the experience of transationality is highly uneven, I fail to see the usefulness in attributing territorial nationality to a place of informal dissonance, but exciting political creativity, as Cruz proposes.

Rather than a third nation, the southern borderlands lend themselves to an exciting alternative to bounded geographic models. Lucidly explained by Doreen Massey in her seminal essay, “A Global Sense of Place,” I want to suggest that we approach the southern borderlands not as a third bounded space carved out of a national boundary, but as a dynamic node of global interconnections where local histories, global capital, and uneven transnational agency come together in illumining ways.

Luis Flores is a 2013-14 visiting researcher at UC Berkeley under the auspice of the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize. His project, “Discovering the IRCA Generation” aims to produce a political economy of immigrants’ integration into housing markets during the 1990s and 2000s, illuminating the dangers of articulating assimilation with financial participation, as well as emphasizing the transnational dimensions to the Great Recession. Luis was raised along the southern border in the town of Calexico, California. He can be reached at jr.luisf@gmail.com