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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Diane Wong on Housing, Displacement, and Politics

"You Can’t Evict A Movement"

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated housing insecurity, leading to what is estimated to be a coming flood of evictions. With her recently-awarded Russell-Sage Foundation-Gates Pipeline Grant, Rutgers-Newark Political Science Professor Diane Wong is examining the democratic implications of displacement by focusing on how residents in Manhattan’s Chinatown are politically responding to evictions, landlord harassment, cultural erasure, and other forms of dispossession.

For this week's #FacultySpotlight, we asked Dr. Wong to share how her scholarship transcends disciplinary boundaries in the service of the communities she studies.

(image description: Dr. Wong talking at The W.O.W. Project One Year Anniversary at Wing On Wo & Co.)

Q. How does your research inform your teaching and service at the university? I approach my research through an ethics of careone that centers reciprocity, collaboration, and radical empathy. I write and teach at the intersections of American politics, Asian American studies, urban studies, comparative immigration, cultural and media studies, and queer of color critique. My current research interrogates the immediacy of home in shaping our political lives. The funds received from the pipeline grant will support a book project that examines how Asian women, elders, immigrants, and queer youth are politically impacted by evictions and housing precarity. The nature of the community rooted scholarship that I am dedicated to has encouraged students here at Rutgers-Newark to expand the possibilities of academic knowledge production, to think critically about how power shapes our surroundings, and to use the classroom as a space to address issues closest to their daily lives. As an educator that speaks across the social sciences and humanities, I encourage students to think beyond disciplinary boundaries and implement a range of pedagogical projects in the classroom that include collaborative zines, innovative data collection and visualization, participatory mapping, and storytelling through the archives that deeply connect the campus to community. Q. How does this work advance the university's mission as a publicly-engaged anchor institution?

To be at a publicly-engaged anchor institution means to ensure that the knowledge, resources, and conversations we have on campus are relevant and accessible to the communities we serve beyond the university. As a transdisciplinary scholar, I view my research as breaking down binaries between academic scholarship and community practice, I challenge myself often to think creatively about academic and non-academic collaboration—to push the boundaries and to explore new possibilities for writing and teaching that honors the expertise of directly-impacted people. My research is rooted in community collaborations with various grassroots groups and intergenerational cultural collectives including the Chinatown Art Brigade, The W.O.W Project, and Asian/Pacific/American Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project. This work has taken on urgency in the last several months with the rise in anti-Asian violence and the devastating impact the pandemic has had on these communities. Practice based research is a way for me to be creative and to reimagine what knowledge production and rigor can look like in the social sciencesand to produce work that is accountable, relatable, and responsible to the material needs, hopes, and dreams of the communities I write about.


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