A Closer Look with Faranak Miraftab
Paul Davidoff Book Award Winner
The Paul Davidoff Book Award recognizes an outstanding book publication regarding participatory planning and positive social change, opposing poverty and racism as factors in society and seeking ways to address social and place-based inequalities. The award is given to honor the memory of Davidoff, an eminent planner who established the field of advocacy planning and who was an unyielding force for justice and social equity in the profession. This award has been given every other year since 1985.
The winner of the 2017 Paul Davidoff Book Award is Global Heartland: Displaced Labor, Transnational Lives, and Local Placemaking by Faranak Miraftab.
Miraftab is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. A native of Iran, she did her undergraduate studies at Tehran University. As a political refugee in Norway, she earned a master's degree at Trondheim’s Norwegian Institute of Technology and then completed her doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
As an urban scholar of globalization, Miraftab has situated her scholarship at the intersection of planning, geography, feminist studies, and postcolonial studies. Her interdisciplinary research is empirically based in cities of Latin America, southern Africa, the Middle East, and North America. Her research and teaching concerns global inequalities, in particular the global and local processes involved in the formation of cities and citizens' struggles to access dignified urban livelihoods. She investigates social and institutional aspects of urban development and planning that address basic human needs, including housing and urban infrastructure and services that support it—particularly how groups disadvantaged by class, gender, race, or ethnicity mobilize to obtain resources such as shelter, basic infrastructure, and services and how institutional arrangements facilitate and frustrate provision of and access to vital urban resources.
In her most recent, award winning book, Global Heartland, she studies the relational development processes of placemaking in Togo, Mexico, and Illinois. Global Heartland illustrates the need for an inter-scalar methodology in understanding local community development processes. It reveals global displacement and emplacement by migrant workers and refugees that make for revitalization of the US Rust Belt.
Global Heartland has inspired artist-scholar-activists to produce audiovisual and theatrical work that extends the project’s reach beyond the academic community. Moving Flesh is a video based on Global Heartland’s interviews; Glo Heart: Displaced Lullaby is a traveling theater that dramatizes some of the book’s main messages, for performance in Midwestern small towns struggling with similar social conflicts and contradictions that the book presents.
In addition to Davidoff’s book award, Global Heartland received the American Sociological Association’s Global & Transnational Sociology section Book Award and was a finalist for the Society for Study of Social Problems’ C. Wright Mills Book Award.
Here's more from our recent conversation with Miraftab regarding her award ...
Q: How did you feel upon accepting the award?
A: I felt honored to be recognized as a contributor to Davidoff’s legacy of promoting social justice through planning.
Q: Who do you want to thank, if anyone?
A: I am thankful to all those in various corners of the world who have trusted me with their stories of urban life and their accounts of urban struggles.
Q: What inspires you about the work for which you won your award?
A: What motivated me in this project was the opportunity to amplify the voice of refugees and migrant workers. Thereby help expose the half-truths and lies, told and promulgated by those in power, that criminalize and blame poor and displaced people.
Q: What's next?
A: Several ongoing collaborative projects and additional smaller research projects keep me busy; here are three:
- Transnational Dialogues for Humane Urbanism concerns how organized urban activists in Chicago, Cape Town, and Mexico City produce knowledge and humane urbanism through their insurgent practices and transnational solidarities. (Mellon Foundation, lead PI).
- Urbanization, Gender, and Global South: A Transformative Knowledge Network makes feminist intervention in urban theory through grounded study of gender and urbanization in eight major cities (SSHRC, co-applicant; lead PI Linda Peake).
- Global Displacements scrutinizes integral relationship between global inequalities and displacement. It examines the relationship between refugee camps and urban slums; humanitarian urbanism and instances of “instant urbanizations;” politics of care and radical care in humanitarian governance.