Transforming the University


Building Institutions

In addition to her teaching and research commitments, Ananya has held various academic leadership positions and has been actively involved in the establishment of several academic programs and centers. This record of service is shaped by her conviction that teaching requires more than effective pedagogy in the classroom; it also requires the building of institutions that serve students. As she has sought to build research fields of national and international influence, so she has established an institutional presence for such fields within the curriculum and student life at the University of California. Many of these programs and centers also connect the public university to public spheres of debate and action.

Ananya currently serves as inaugural Director of The Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. Established in 2015 with a generous gift by Meyer and Renee Luskin, the institute serves as a space within the Luskin School of Public Affairs and more broadly at the University of California, Los Angeles, for critical thought and practice concerned with building globally interconnected democratic futures in an unequal world.

Previously, at the University of California, Berkeley, she held the following academic leadership positions.

As the founding Education Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, an interdisciplinary hub for understanding and acting on global poverty and inequality, Ananya established and chaired the undergraduate minor in Global Poverty and Practice.  Involving hundreds of students from over 30 majors, the minor provides the theoretical frameworks, methods and skills, and creative opportunities necessary for students to participate in forms of practice that engage global poverty in imaginative and practical ways.

In 2002, along with colleagues in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, Ananya established the undergraduate major in Urban Studies. An interdisciplinary program, the major trains students in the historical and contemporary analysis of American and global urbanization and urbanism and allows them to imagine ways of creating more equitable urban futures.

The Center for Global Metropolitan Studies was established at the University of California, Berkeley, as part of a campus-wide effort to create multidisciplinary initiatives. Along with Richard Walker, Ananya directed the center and its graduate program, the Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies.

International and Area Studies has a long and important history at the University of California, Berkeley. From 2005 to 2009, Ananya served as Associate and Undergraduate Dean of the division, leading its undergraduate and graduate academic programs and establishing connections between these programs and international and area studies research centers. The International and Area Studies Academic Program remains home to interdisciplinary majors and graduate degree programs concerned with the study of international and global issues.

Teaching Philosophy

In 2006, Ananya received the Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest teaching recognition that the University of California, Berkeley, confers on its faculty. Here is the text of her statement of teaching philosophy prepared for that award.

Statement of Teaching Philosophy for the Distinguished Teaching Award, 2006

To teach is a great privilege. When I am immersed in the flow of the semester, enthralled by a particularly lively seminar session or by an especially smart set of questions and conversations after lecture, I stop for a moment to read Adrienne Rich:

We move but our words stand

become responsible

for more than we intended

and this is verbal privilege…

Words are found responsible

all you can do is choose them

or choose

to remain silent…

and this is verbal privilege…

and I start to speak again.

And I start to speak again, with an acute sense of my privilege and of how the privilege to teach implies responsibility.

I am especially privileged to teach in what I believe is one of the world’s greatest public universities. We have a public mandate for inclusive education and a long history of transformative education. I feel this, in palpable fashion, when I read and grade the student research papers for my large undergraduate classes (I have stubbornly continued to grade the 200+ or 100+ papers each semester). It is CP 115, Fall 2005, and a student writes in his term paper that a great change is in the making, because here at UC Berkeley, in a class such as this, students not only study economic globalization, but also that he, son of a sweatshop worker, the first in his family to get a college education, is present. His mother, her body bent over her sewing machine in Los Angeles, he, in the classroom writing a structural analysis of postfordist production. He is not alone. In a discussion of social movements, I broach the issue with the class. I find a few students waiting for me after the session, each sharing how he is the son of the slum dweller, she too is the daughter of the sweatshop worker. Another student writes in her term paper that a great change is in the making, because here at UC Berkeley, in a class such as this, she learns about enclave urbanism and begins to map the geographies of disadvantage and inequality that shape our cities. She believes that a change is in the making when the daughter of opportunity graduates from Berkeley with the ability to dismantle the gated bastions of wealth and power within which she was raised. This is the privilege, and responsibility, of teaching at Berkeley.

I teach a wide range of subjects and enjoy a variety of teaching formats. But three principles remain central and consistent in all of my teaching. First, I seek to globalize the curriculum of urban studies and planning, educating students about the great cities that lie outside the domain of their EuroAmerican experiences: Calcutta, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, Nairobi. I want my students to rethink their pre-conceived atlases: to not just fit these urbanisms into what they alreay know but rather to craft entirely new paradigms of urban order and function. And more boldly, I want them to call into question the geopolitical hierarchies, such as First World and Third World, through which we have ordered the world. I suggest to them the ways in which “elsewhere” might allow us to interrogate the certainties of “home,” of how a “Third World” lens on “First World” prosperity might make possible a more acute analysis of poverty, deprivation, and inequality and how it might also make possible a more interesting repertoire of concepts of democracy, citizenship, and social change.

Second, in my courses, I seek to link knowledge to action. Our graduate city planning students train to be professionals but in doing so they aim to be much more than technocrats. I teach my graduate students the value of critique, doubt, and deconstruction, knowing that rather being paralyzed by such epistemologies they will use them to craft spaces of negotiability and terrains of ethical action in the context of professional practice. Similarly, with my undergraduates who are eager to change the world but often eschew status quo institutions, I challenge them to write their research papers as briefing memos addressed to the president of the World Bank, thereby encouraging them to speak to those in power and to engage with powerful institutions.

Third, in allowing students to learn about and rewrite the rules of the game, I am committed to the teaching of theory. I take great delight in the material realities of cities. I am, in many ways, an empiricist. But theory is crucial. Ideas matter. Last week, in my The City class as I started teaching urban theory to over a hundred undergraduates from at least 10 different disciplines, I received an email from a student. She said that the work we were doing reminded her of Audre Lorde’s essay, “Poetry is Not a Luxury.” She was right for “theory” could stand in for the “poetry” of which Lorde writes: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought… Poetry is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Theory/ Poetry.

I am a teacher, and I am therefore also a mentor and advisor. I take pride in my graduate students who develop their own identities and voices as teachers. I am delighted as my undergraduates find their way to prestigious jobs, fellowships, and graduate programs. But I also believe that teaching requires something more than individual mentorship, that it requires institution-building. To this end, I have worked with my colleagues in City & Regional Planning to establish a new undergraduate, interdisciplinary major in Urban Studies, a program that I now chair. In 2005, I accepted a compelling offer to serve as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the Division of International & Area Studies. In this capacity, I now oversee various undergraduate majors (e.g. Development Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies) and a graduate M.A. program as well as UC Berkeley’s Study Abroad office. There are days now spent in programmatic review, committee meetings, fund-raising, meetings, proposal-writing, resource allocation, more meetings. But when I am in my classroom it all makes sense. For how can I challenge my students to open up new terrains of action and negotiability in powerful institutions if I cannot insist on a more equitable and accessible academy? How can I challenge my students to craft new paradigms of knowledge if I cannot imagine ways to implement and institutionalize new epistemologies, new scholarship, and new traditions of excellence? We have to earn the privilege to teach and I am paying my dues.

Defending the Public University

In 2009 and 2010, faculty and students at the University of California, Berkeley, organized to protest a series of budget cuts, fee hikes, worker layoffs, and faculty furloughs.  Ananya was a participant in these movements. Here are some reports and discussions of these struggles:

DEMOCRACY NOW: Why Are We Destroying Public Education? November 17, 2009

DEMOCRACY NOW: Thousands of Students Take Part in National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, March 4, 2010

DEMOCRACY NOW: Ananya Roy on California’s Education Battle, October 14, 2010

Tad Friend, “Protest Studies”, The New Yorker, January 4, 2010.

Ananya Roy, “We Are All Students of Color Now” in Representations 116:1, The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University, guest-edited by Christopher Newfield and Colleen Lye (Fall 2011), 117-188.

“Why Public Education Matters in America” The Daily Iowan, March 26

2013, At Berkeley, a documentary film by Frederick Wiseman,

Power, Patriarchy, and the University

In 2014, Ananya delivered a talk at TEDxMarin on the theme of “Power, Patriarchy, and the University.” Building on years of work seeking to undo patriarchal hierarchies within the university, including in her role as (elected) president of the Association of Academic Women at the University of California, Berkeley, this talk speaks of the unfinished business of gender equality in modern academia. The talk was also meant as a farewell to the University of California, Berkeley, where Ananya was a graduate student and then a part of the faculty for many years.