Urban Issues

Championing Social Justice, Locally & Globally

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LAS has exceptional expertise in studying the global urban issues of the 21st century.  Our researchers examine, interpret, and offer new pathways to solve the world’s and our city’s most pressing social, cultural, and political problems. They address the powerful and often hidden connections between social, environmental, political and cultural forces that define our lives both globally and locally: the environment, poverty, social justice, urban violence, social media, immigration, education, domestic abuse, criminal justice reform, housing, and the rise of populism are among our strongest areas of investigation and concern.

We have award-winning faculty working on all forms of urban violence as well as understanding its causes and offering innovative solutions.  We are at the forefront of identifying and addressing environmental and ecological issues associated with urbanization and urban centers, exploring their historical, scientific, and sociological dimensions.  We are a leading center for research on issues of urban immigration, understanding this phenomenon and its implications from multiple perspectives; theoretical, ethical, political and practical. We have and will continue to move the needle on all issues within our community by connecting academic research with modern day lived experiences.

  • City Violence

    Violence, especially its causes, prevention, and treatments, is a critical problem in the Chicago microcosm that is likely to have parallels to other urban centers across the globe. Among the topics that directly address violence in the Chicago area, our researchers are actively studying long-term consequences of domestic abuse (Dr. Lisa Frohmann), prison policies (Dr. Beth Richie) and actions that feed the preschool-to-prison pipeline (Dr. Katherine Zinsser and Dr. Rachel Gordon), reform of criminal law and incarceration policies (Dr. Edna Erez), and gun safety (Dr. Alexandra Filindra).

  • Social & Mass Media

    Our Department of Communication specializes in social media policies and practices. Dr. Zizi Papacharissi and Dr. Sharon Meraz study the impact of social and mass media on particular political movements and outcomes. Dr. Papacharissi’s book, Affective Publics: Sentiment, Technology, and Politics (Oxford University Press), was the winner of the National Communication Association Human Communication and Technology Division Best Book Award.

  • Diversity Issues

    Dr. Walter Benn Michaels is a distinguished scholar in American Literary Studies and is widely known for his Marxist critiques of cultural pluralism. His crossover book, The Trouble with Diversity, has become something of a lightning rod for arguing the differential impacts of race and class in American literary and political discourse.

  • Art & Literary Expression

    Our humanities scholars make skillful use of art and literature to address and highlight problems, challenges, and potential solutions in today’s increasingly interconnected world. Dr. Luis Urrea, a Distinguished Professor of English, uses literature to describe the world at the US-Mexico border and the fate of immigrant communities in the US. His books focus on stories that intersect the United States and Mexico, illustrating the challenges of navigating both cultures. Dr. Margarita Saona, Professor and Head of the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies, studies contemporary Latin American constructions of national identity and the role of the arts as a vehicle for memorializing the voices of victims of repressive political and social regimes. Her work extends into award-winning literature and poetry that similarly tackles issues of human rights and individual freedom.

  • Race & Identity

    The Racialized Body research cluster at LAS, led by Dr. Cynthia Blair (Department of African American Studies), analyzes race as an embodiment category. The research team examines how the ideas and definitions of race are manifested in the regulations and descriptions of the “body.” Dr. Nadine Naber (Gender and Women’s Studies) is leading the Diaspora Studies research cluster and authored the book on the changing perception of race for Arab Americans.

  • Residential Segregation

    Dr. Maria Krysan, Professor of Sociology, explores racial residential segregation and associated racial attitudes. Her award-winning book, Cycle of Segregation, outlines a new conceptual framework for understanding the causes of segregation in urban settings.