Strength in Numbers: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them

Presented by the Citrin Center for Public Opinion Research

Strength in Numbers Flyer

Presented by the Citrin Center for Public Opinion Research, this panel will focus on challenges related to public opinion polling — and how they can be addressed.


  • Elliott Morris, Data Journalist and Correspondent, The Economist
  • Mark Di Camillo, Director, IGS Survey, UC Berkeley
  • Erin Hartman, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley
  • Jon Cohen, Chief Research Officer, Momentive/SurveyMonkey
  • Moderated by Jack Citrin, Professor of the Graduate School, UC Berkeley


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New Perspectives on Race and Public Opinion

Presented by the Citrin Center for Public Opinion Research

new perspectives on race and public opinion

Attitudes about race and ethnicity, and the groups that hold such identities, are central to political behavior and public policy, particularly among survey researchers and scholars of the American political system. Yet in recent years, we have seen presumably new forms of racial bias and discrimination in mainstream politics that challenge existing theories and offer new scholarly directions.

How can researchers push the boundaries of how we think about race to advance knowledge that informs the character of American democracy and the prospect of a just society? How can we utilize the elements of survey design to assess the explicit and subtle effects of race on public opinion? And how can our work shape policy and political decision-making to build greater equity, understanding, and social cohesion?

In this panel, we will discuss new perspectives on inter- and intra-racial attitudes, new directions for research, and new ways of theorizing, measuring, and experimenting to understand the politics of race and ethnicity.


  • David C. Wilson, Dean of Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
  • Darren Davis, Snyder Family Mission Professor, University of Notre Dame
  • Naomi Levy, Associate Professor of Political Science, Santa Clara University
  • Moderated by Amy Lerman, Michelle Schwartz, Endowed Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, UC Berkeley


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Matrix on Point: The Court and the People

Cross-disciplinary conversations on today’s most pressing issues

Supreme Court

In the wake of recent decisions on abortion, First Amendment rights, gun rights, Miranda rights, and jurisdiction over Native American reservations, the Supreme Court today seems particularly out of sync with the American people. In this Matrix on Point panel, experts will discuss what these decisions and the conservative turn in the Supreme Court mean for the relationship between the court and the people. 

Join us on October 20 for a discussion with Thomas Biolsi, Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies in the Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley; Khiara M. Bridges, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law; and Ronit Stahl, Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of History. This event is co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley School of Law.



Khiara BridgesKhiara M. Bridges is a Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law. She has written many articles concerning race, class, reproductive rights, and the intersection of the three. Her scholarship has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the California Law Review, the NYU Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review, among others. She is also the author of three books: Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization (2011), The Poverty of Privacy Rights (2017), and Critical Race Theory: A Primer (2019). She is a coeditor of a reproductive justice book series that is published under the imprint of the University of California Press.

Erwin ChemerinskyErwin Chemerinsky became the 13th Dean of Berkeley Law on July 1, 2017, when he joined the faculty as the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law. Prior to assuming this position, from 2008-2017, he was the founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at University of California, Irvine School of Law. He is the author of fifteen books, including leading casebooks and treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction. His most recent books are Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights (Norton 2021), and The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State (with Howard Gillman) (Oxford University Press 2020). He also is the author of more than 200 law review articles. He is a contributing writer for the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, and writes regular columns for the Sacramento Bee, the ABA Journal and the Daily Journal, and frequent op-eds in newspapers across the country. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court.

Thomas BiolsiThomas Biolsi is Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. His research has focused largely on Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, home of the Sicangu Lakota or Rosebud Sioux. His books include Power and Progress on the Prairie: Governing People on Rosebud Reservation (University of Minnesota Press, Spring, 2018), which examines how the federal government exercised power over the people, land, and resources of “the Rosebud Country” (Rosebud Reservation and surrounding territory).

Ronit StahlRonit Stahl is an Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of History. A historian of modern America, Stahl focuses on pluralism in American society by examining how politics, law, and religion interact in spaces such as the military and medicine. Her book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2017), traces the uneven processes through which the military struggled with, encouraged, and regulated religious pluralism over the twentieth century. Her current research examines the rise of institutional and corporate rights of conscience in health care. This project weaves together the court decisions, legislation, medical and bioethical arguments, religious ideas, and lived experiences that shaped the disparate trajectories of reproductive healthcare, LGBT healthcare, and of end-of-life care from the 1970s to the present.

Matrix on Point is a discussion series promoting focused, cross-disciplinary conversations on today’s most pressing issues. Offering opportunities for scholarly exchange and interaction, each Matrix on Point features the perspectives of leading scholars and specialists from different disciplines, followed by an open conversation. These thought-provoking events are free and open to the public.

Top photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash


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Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century

Co-sponsored by the Network for a New Political Economy (N2PE)

Slouching Towards Utopia book cover

Join us on September 1 for a book talk with Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, focused on his recent book, Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century. DeLong will be joined in conversation by Robert Brenner, Professor Emeritus and Director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA. The talk will be moderated by Steven Vogel, Co-Director of the Network for a New Political Economy (N2PE).

This event is co-sponsored with the Network for a New Political Economy (N2PE).


About the Book

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Authors Meet Critics: How the Clinic Made Gender

Part of the Social Science Matrix "Authors Meet Critics" Series

how the clinic made gender book cover

Register to join us on November 9 for an “Authors Meet Critics” panel on How the Clinic Made Gender: The Medical History of a Transformative Idea (University of Chicago Press, 2022) by Sandra Eder, Associate Professor of History at UC Berkeley. Eder will be joined in conversation by Laura Nelson, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley, and Danya Lagos, Assistant Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology. The panel will be moderated by Catherine Ceniza Choy, Professor of Ethnic Studies and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society.

Co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of History, the UC Berkeley Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society (CSTMS).

For 30% off, purchase from the University of Chicago Press website and enter code UCPNEW at checkout.


About the Book

Today, a world without “gender” is hard to imagine. Gender is at the center of contentious political and social debates, shapes policy decisions, and informs our everyday lives. Its formulation, however, is lesser known: gender was first used in clinical practice.

In How the Clinic Made Gender: The Medical History of a Transformative Idea, Sandra Eder tells the story of the invention of gender in American medicine, detailing how it was shaped by mid-twentieth-century American notions of culture, personality, and social engineering. Eder tells the story of the invention of gender in American medicine, detailing how it was shaped by mid-twentieth-century American notions of culture, personality, and social engineering. 

Eder shows how the concept of gender transformed from a pragmatic tool in the sex assignment of children with intersex traits in the 1950s to an essential category in clinics for transgender individuals in the 1960s. Following gender outside the clinic, she reconstructs the variable ways feminists integrated gender into their theories and practices in the 1970s. The process by which ideas about gender became medicalized, enforced, and popularized was messy, and the route by which gender came to be understood and applied through the treatment of patients with intersex traits was fraught and contested.

In historicizing the emergence of the sex/gender binary, Eder reveals the role of medical practice in developing a transformative idea and the interdependence between practice and wider social norms that inform the attitudes of physicians and researchers. She shows that ideas like gender can take on a life of their own and may be used to question the normative perceptions they were based on. Illuminating and deeply researched, the book closes a notable gap in the history of gender and will inspire current debates on the relationship between social norms and medical practice. 


Sandra EderSandra Eder is Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of History. Her research focuses on the emergence of modern ideas about the self and formulations of identity through scientific knowledge production and in medical practice, the interplay of gender, sexuality, identity, ethnicity, and medicine, patient records and clinical practices, and gender and sexuality in popular culture. In addition to How the Clinic Made Gender: The Medical History of a Transformative Idea, Eder was co-editor of  Pink and Blue: Gender, Culture, and the Health of Children (Rutgers University Press, 2021).

Danya Lagos, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, specializes in how gender is changing in the 21st century. She is particularly interested in the social demography of LGBTQ populations. Her work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Demography and the Annual Review of Sociology. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in April of 2019. During the 2019-2020 academic year, she was an NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center.

Laura NelsonLaura Nelson is Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. She was trained as a cultural anthropologist, and she has focused her research on issues of gender in the context of cultural change. Her earlier interest in gender and economic inequality has led her to questions of how gendering interacts with practice in domains of health and caring.

Catherine Ceniza ChoyCatherine Ceniza Choy (moderator) is Professor of Ethnic Studies and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society. Her most recent book is Asian American Histories of the United States (Beacon Press, 2022). It features the themes of anti-Asian hate and violence, erasure of Asian American history, and Asian American resistance to what has been omitted in a nearly 200 year history of Asian migration, labor, and community formation in the US.

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Matrix on Point: Humanitarian Technologies 

Cross-disciplinary conversations on today’s most pressing issues

event panelists

Co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley School of Information, the Center for Technology, Society & Policy, and the Human Rights Center.

Now more than ever, humanitarianism is being conducted at a distance. As humanitarian efforts shift from in-kind and in-person assistance to cash- and information-based assistance, how does this change what humanitarian work looks like? At this September 26 Matrix on Point panel, a group of experts will examine how technology raises new questions about the efficacy of humanitarian interventions, the human rights of recipients, and the broader power relations between donors and recipients.

The panel will include Daragh Murray, Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre & School of Law; Fleur Johns, Professor in the Faculty of Law & Justice at UNSW Sydney; and Wendy H. Wong, Principal’s Research Chair, Professor, Political Science, The University of British Columbia. The panel will be moderated by Laurel E. Fletcher, Clinical Professor of Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law, where she directs the International Human Rights Law Clinic.

This panel is part of the Matrix On Point discussion series, an event series focused on cross-disciplinary conversations on today’s most pressing contemporary issues. Offering opportunities for scholarly exchange and interaction, each Matrix On Point features the perspectives of leading scholars and specialists from different disciplines, followed by an open conversation. These events are free and open to the public.

If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Chuck Kapelke or Eva Seto at with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.

Register to Attend


Daragh MurrayDaragh Murray: Daragh Murray is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre & School of Law. He was recently awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship: ‘What does Artificial Intelligence Mean for the Future of Democratic Society? Examining the societal impact of AI and whether human rights can respond’. This four-year interdisciplinary project began in January 2020, and the project team will draw on expertise in human rights law, sociology, and philosophy. Current research has a particular emphasis on law enforcement, intelligence agency, and military AI applications, although the scope of the project is broader. Daragh’s research expertise is in international human rights law and the law of armed conflict. He has a specific interest in artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, and in using human rights law to more effectively inform ex ante decision-making processes.


Fleur JohnsFleur Johns: Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law & Justice at UNSW Sydney working in international law, legal theory, and law and technology. She is also an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and, in 2021-2024, a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has published four books and has a forthcoming monograph under contract with Oxford University Press, co-authored with Caroline Compton, entitled #Help: Digital Humanitarianism and the Remaking of International Order. Fleur has held visiting appointments in Europe, the UK, the US, and Canada and serves on a range of editorial boards, including those of the American Journal of International Law and the journals Science, Technology & Human Values and Technology and Regulation. Fleur was elected to Fellowship of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2020 and currently serves on its Executive Committee as International Secretary. Fleur is a graduate of Melbourne University (BA, LLB(Hons)) and Harvard University (LLM, SJD; Menzies Scholar; Laylin Prize). Her Twitter handle is @FleurEJ.


Wendy WongWendy H. Wong: Wendy H. Wong studies global governance. She is particularly attentive to how non-state actors (e.g. nongovernmental organizations, civil society actors, social movements, and corporations) govern at the global and domestic levels. Her areas of interest are emerging technologies like AI, Big Data, human rights, and humanitarian assistance. Dr. Wong has written two award-winning books, penned dozens of peer-reviewed articles and chapters, and has contributed to outlets such as The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and The Conversation. She has been awarded grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, among other granting agencies.

Currently, she is Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan (Sylix Okanagan Nation Territory) and Principal’s Research Chair. Dr. Wong is a Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. She is currently on leave from the University of Toronto, where she is Canada Research in Global Governance and Civil Society and Professor of Political Science. Previously, she was Research Lead at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at the University of Toronto. From 2012-2017, she was Director of the Trudeau Center for Peace, Conflict, and Justice at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.


Laurel FletcherLaurel E. Fletcher (moderator) is Clinical Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, School of Law where she directs the International Human Rights Law Clinic. Fletcher is active in the areas of human rights, humanitarian law, international criminal justice, and transitional justice. As director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic, she utilizes an interdisciplinary, problem-based approach to human rights research, advocacy, and policy.

Fletcher has advocated on behalf of victims before international courts and tribunals, and has issued numerous human rights reports on topics ranging from sexual violence in armed conflict to human rights violations of tipped workers in the US restaurant industry. She also has conducted several empirical human rights studies, including of the impact of detention on former detainees who were held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She served as co-Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Transitional Justice (2011-2015). Fletcher was selected as a Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor to the Faculty of Law in the University of Cambridge for 2019.

Her recent publications include A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? Transitional Justice and the Effacement of State Accountability for International Crimes, 39 Fordham Int’l L.J. 447 (2016); Refracted Justice: The Imagined Victim and the International Criminal Court, in “Contested Justice: the Politics and Practice of International Criminal Court Interventions” 302 (C.M. De Vos, Sara Kendall & Carsten Stahn eds., Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015); and Writing Transitional Justice: An Empirical Evaluation of Transitional Justice Scholarship in Academic Journals, 7 J. Hum. Rts. Prac. 177 (2015) (co-author: Harvey M. Weinstein). In 2009, she and Eric Stover published “The Guantanamo Effect: Exposing the Consequences of U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices” (UC Press).


Author Meets Critics: “Voices in the Code”

Part of the Authors Meet Critics event series

Voices in the Code Book Cover

Join us on October 10 for an “Authors Meet Critics” panel about the book Voices in the Code: A Story About People, Their Values, and the Algorithm They Made, by David Robinson, a visiting scholar at Social Science Matrix and a member of the faculty at Apple University. Robinson will be joined in conversation by Iason Gabriel, a Staff Research Scientist at DeepMind, and Deirdre Mulligan, Professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information.

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, and the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Group (AFOG).


About the Book

Algorithms – rules written into software – shape key moments in our lives: from who gets hired or admitted to a top public school, to who should go to jail or receive scarce public benefits. Today, high stakes software is rarely open to scrutiny, but its code navigates moral questions: Which of a person’s traits are fair to consider as part of a job application? Who deserves priority in accessing scarce public resources, whether those are school seats, housing, or medicine? When someone first appears in a courtroom, how should their freedom be weighed against the risks they might pose to others?

Policymakers and the public often find algorithms to be complex, opaque and intimidating—and it can be tempting to pretend that hard moral questions have simple technological answers. But that approach leaves technical experts holding the moral microphone, and it stops people who lack technical expertise from making their voices heard. Today, policymakers and scholars are seeking better ways to share the moral decisionmaking within high stakes software — exploring ideas like public participation, transparency, forecasting, and algorithmic audits. But there are few real examples of those techniques in use.

In Voices in the Code, scholar David G. Robinson tells the story of how one community built a life-and-death algorithm in a relatively inclusive, accountable way. Between 2004 and 2014, a diverse group of patients, surgeons, clinicians, data scientists, public officials and advocates collaborated and compromised to build a new transplant matching algorithm – a system to offer donated kidneys to particular patients from the U.S. national waiting list.

Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders, unpublished archives, and a wide scholarly literature, Robinson shows how this new Kidney Allocation System emerged and evolved over time, as participants gradually built a shared understanding both of what was possible, and of what would be fair. Robinson finds much to criticize, but also much to admire, in this story. It ultimately illustrates both the promise and the limits of participation, transparency, forecasting and auditing of high stakes software. The book’s final chapter draws out lessons for the broader struggle to build technology in a democratic and accountable way.


David RobinsonDavid Robinson is a visiting scholar at Social Science Matrix and a member of the faculty at Apple University. From 2018 to 2021, he developed this book as a Visiting Scientist at Cornell’s AI Policy and Practice Project. Earlier, Robinson co-founded and led Upturn, an NGO that partners with civil rights organizations to advance equity and justice in the design, governance, and use of digital technology.


IasonIason Gabriel is a Staff Research Scientist who works in the ethics research team at DeepMind. His work focuses on the relationship between artificial intelligence and human values, including questions of democracy, participation, and social justice in the context of AI. Iason’s background is in political and moral philosophy. He taught at the University of Oxford and worked for the United Nations Development Program before joining DeepMind.

Deirdre MulliganDeirdre K. Mulligan is a Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley, a faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, a co-organizer of the Algorithmic Fairness & Opacity Working Group. Mulligan is also an affiliated faculty of the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, and a faculty advisor to the Center for Technology, Society & Policy. Mulligan’s research explores legal and technical means of protecting values such as privacy, freedom of expression, and fairness in emerging technical systems.  Her book, Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe, a study of privacy practices in large corporations in five countries (conducted with UC Berkeley Law Prof. Kenneth Bamberger) was published by MIT Press.

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Authors Meet Critics: Darieck Scott, “Keeping It Unreal: Black Queer Fantasy and Superhero Comics”

Part of the Authors Meet Critics event series

Cover of Keeping It Unreal

Join us on October 14, 2022 from 12pm-1:30pm Pacific for an Authors Meet Critics panel on Keeping It Unreal: Black Queer Fantasy and Superhero Comics (NYU Press, 2022), by Darieck Scott, Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Professor Scott will be joined in conversation by Ula Taylor, Professor & 1960 Chair of Undergraduate Education in the UC Berkeley Department of African-American Studies and African Diaspora; and Scott Bukatman, Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Stanford University Department of Art & Art History. The panel will be moderated by Greg Niemeyer, Professor of Media Innovation, Toban Fellow, Director of the Art Practice Graduate Program at UC Berkeley.

Co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and the Berkeley Center for New Media.

Register to Attend

About the Book

Characters like Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Miles Morales, and Black Lightning are part of a growing cohort of black superheroes on TV and in film. Though comic books are often derided as naïve and childish, these larger-than-life superheroes demonstrate how this genre can serve as the catalyst for engaging the Black radical imagination.

Keeping It Unreal: Comics and Black Queer Fantasy is an exploration of how fantasies of Black power and triumph fashion theoretical, political, and aesthetic challenges to—and respite from—white supremacy and anti-Blackness. It examines representations of Blackness in fantasy-infused genres: superhero comic books, erotic comics, fantasy and science-fiction genre literature, as well as contemporary literary “realist” fiction centering fantastic conceits.

Darieck Scott offers a rich meditation on the relationship between fantasy and reality, and between the imagination and being, as he weaves his personal recollections of his encounters with superhero comics with interpretive readings of figures like the Black Panther and Blade, as well as theorists such as Frantz Fanon, Eve Sedgwick, Leo Bersani, Saidiya Hartman, and Gore Vidal. Keeping It Unreal represents an in-depth theoretical consideration of the intersections of superhero comics, Blackness, and queerness, and draws on a variety of fields of inquiry.

Reading new life into Afrofuturist traditions and fantasy genres, Darieck Scott seeks to rescue the role of fantasy and the fantastic to challenge, revoke, and expand our assumptions about what is normal, real, and markedly human.


Darieck ScottDarieck Scott Darieck Scott is a professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. In addition to Keeping It Unreal: Black Queer Fantasy and Superhero Comics, Scott authored Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination (NYU Press 2010), which was the winner of the 2011 Alan Bray Memorial Prize for Queer Studies of the Modern Language Association.

Ula TaylorUla Taylor: Ula Taylor earned her doctorate in American History from UC Santa Barbara. She is the author of The Promise of Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam, The Veiled Garvey: The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey, co-author of Panther: A Pictorial History of the Black Panther Party and The Story Behind the Film and co-editor of Black California Dreamin: The Crisis of California African American Communities.

Scott BukatmanScott Bukatman: Scott Bukatman is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford University. His work explores the ways popular forms mediate between new technologies and human perceptual and bodily experience. His books include Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins and, most recently, Black Panther (University of Texas Press).

Greg NiemeyerGreg Niemeyer (moderator): Greg Niemeyer is a data artist and Professor of Media Innovation in the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley. He is the former director and co-founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media. Niemeyer’s work is data-driven: large datasets and data streams are raw materials for visual and sonic experiences. His work theorizes data as mirrors, reflecting to us what we don’t see about our essential resources (air, water, care) from novel points of view. These patterns hold the hope that we can learn something new about what is to come and that we can evolve from the impossible present to more possible futures.

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Authors Meet Critics: “The Government of Emergency” 

Part of the Matrix Authors Meet Critics event series

Cover of "The Government of Emergency"

Please join us on Friday, September 9, from 1-2:30pm PDT for an “Authors Meet Critics” discussion focused on The Government of Emergency: Vital Systems, Expertise, and the Politics of Security, by Stephen Collier, Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning, and Andrew Lakoff, Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. The authors will be joined in conversation by Michael Watts, Class of ‘63 and Chancellor’s Professor of Geography Emeritus at UC Berkeley, and Cathryn Carson, Chair of the UC Berkeley Department of History. The panel will be moderated by Aihwa Ong, Professor Emerita at UC Berkeley.

Co-sponsored by Global Metropolitan Studies.

This will be a hybrid event (both in-person and livestreamed). A Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to the event.


About the Book

From pandemic disease, to the disasters associated with global warming, to cyberattacks, today we face an increasing array of catastrophic threats. It is striking that, despite the diversity of these threats, experts and officials approach them in common terms: as future events that threaten to disrupt the vital, vulnerable systems upon which modern life depends.

The Government of Emergency (Princeton 2021) tells the story of how this now taken-for-granted way of understanding and managing emergencies arose. Amid the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, an array of experts and officials working in obscure government offices developed a new understanding of the nation as a complex of vital, vulnerable systems. They invented technical and administrative devices to mitigate the nation’s vulnerability, and organized a distinctive form of emergency government that would make it possible to prepare for and manage potentially catastrophic events.

Through these conceptual and technical inventions, Stephen Collier and Andrew Lakoff argue, vulnerability was defined as a particular kind of problem, one that continues to structure the approach of experts, officials, and policymakers to future emergencies.

The Social Science Matrix Authors Meet Critics book series features lively discussions about recently published books authored by social scientists at UC Berkeley. For each event, the author discusses the key arguments of their book with fellow scholars. These events are free and open to the public.

About the Panelists

Stephen CollierStephen Collier, Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning, studies city planning and urban governance from the broad perspective of the critical social science of expertise and expert systems. Collier’s current research examines urban resilience as a significant new paradigm and practice in city and regional planning. He has conducted fieldwork on urban resilience in New Orleans and New York, with ongoing comparative projects in other U.S. cities that examine how urban governments are developing and financing resilience interventions. Collier’s ongoing work on resilience builds on longer-term research on the genealogy of emergency government in the United States, which resulted in a co-authored book, The Government of Emergency: System Vulnerability, Expertise, and the Politics of Security.

Andrew Lakoff is Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California, where he is also the founding director of the Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life.  He is the author of Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry (Cambridge, 2006), Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency (California, 2017), and with Stephen J. Collier, The Government of Emergency: Vital Systems, Expertise, and the Politics of Security.

Cathryn Carson

Cathryn Carson holds the Thomas M. Siebel Presidential Chair in the History of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Before receiving her Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University, she was trained in condensed matter physics. Her research deals with the intellectual, political, and institutional history of contemporary science, including theoretical physics and data science. She has served as Associate Dean of Social Sciences, founding Director of the Social Sciences Data Laboratory (D-Lab), founding Senior Fellow of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, Faculty Lead of the Data Science Education Program, and Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board for Berkeley’s Data Science Planning Initiative.

Michael WattsMichael J. Watts is Class of ‘63 and Chancellor’s Professor of Geography Emeritus, and Co-Director of Development Studies, at the University of California, Berkeley where he taught for 40 years. He served as the Director of the Institute of International Studies at Berkeley from 1994-2004, and was Director of Social Science Matrix from 2019-2020. Among his books are Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria (1983, 2013); Reworking Modernity: Capitalisms and Symbolic Discontent (1992, with Allan Pred); and Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years in the Niger Delta (2008, with photojournalist Ed Kashi). Watts was educated at University College London and the University of Michigan and has held visiting appointments at the Smithsonian Institution, Bergen, Bologna, and London. He served on the Board of Advisors of a number of non-profits, including Food First and the Pacific Institute and was Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Social Science Research Council. Watts is a member of the British Academy, a Guggenheim fellow in 2003 and was awarded the Victoria Medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 2004, and the Berlin Prize by the American Academy in Berlin 2016.

Aihwa Ong (moderator) is professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. Ong’s study of flows and their ensuing entanglements tends to unsettle stabilized viewpoints and units of analysis in the social sciences. Her inquiry explores how assemblages of technology, politics and cultures crystallize emerging contexts of globality. More recently, she studies how Asian life science projects, and Chinese experimental art, respectively, mediate and transform global flows. Ong is the author of several books, including most recently: Fungible Life: Experiment in the Asian City of Life (2016).  In 2020, Ong gave the SSRC Fellow lecture, “Near-Humans, Cloned Monkeys, and CRISPR Babies: Productive Uncertainty in China’s Quest for Biosecurity.


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Floods and Equity: A Panel Discussion

1927 Mississippi Flood

Floods are the most destructive natural hazard, both at the national and international scale, and they disproportionately affect people of color and the poor. To understand this uneven exposure to floods requires that we understand the history of land use and institutional structures that have resulted in current exposure and inequitable allocation of resources for flood protection and for post-disaster aid (‘procedural vulnerability’).

One of the most critical agencies is the US Army Corps of Engineers, whose cost-benefit analysis approach tends to preclude flood risk management projects in poor communities.

In this presentation, panelists Danielle Zoe Rivera (UC Berkeley) and Jessica Ludy (US Army Corps) will draw upon their research on these topics and discuss pathways to improving on the current situation.

Co-sponsored by Social Science Matrix, Global Metropolitan Studies, and River-Lab, from the University of California, Berkeley.



Danielle Zoe RiveraDanielle Zoe Rivera is an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning in the College of Environmental Design. Rivera’s research examines movements for environmental and climate justice. Her current work uses community-based research methods to address the impacts of climate-induced disasters affecting low-income communities throughout South Texas and Puerto Rico. Rivera teaches on environmental planning and design, community engagement, and environmental justice. Her work has been published by the Journal of the American Planning Association, Environment and Planning, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. She holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining the University of California Berkeley, Rivera taught Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Jessica Ludy Jessica Ludy (she/her) is the Flood Risk Program Manager and Environmental Justice Coordinator for the San Francisco District US Army Corps of Engineers. Through the Army Corps’ “Technical Assistance Programs,” Jessica and her team partner with communities in the San Francisco District Area of Responsibility to identify and implement solutions for equitable, just, and sustainable climate adaptation. Jessica also leads the San Francisco district’s efforts to implement the federal government’s priorities to advance social and environmental justice. Jessica’s work is informed and inspired by collaborations and scholarship of researchers and colleagues both inside and out of the federal government, and by the decades of environmental and disability justice leadership from indigenous peoples, people of color, and other historically-marginalized groups. Jessica is a co-chair of the Social Justice and Floodplain Management Task Force at the Association of State Floodplain Managers. Prior to the Army Corps, she worked on flood risk management and floodplain restoration as an environmental consultant, a Fulbright scholar, and at nonprofits. Jessica completed her Master’s in Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley in 2009 where her thesis was on flood risk perception behind levees sent her down a rabbit hole to change the way we ‘do’ flood risk management… forever.

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Matrix on Point: One Million COVID Deaths

A series of cross-disciplinary conversations on today’s most pressing issues

covid virus

As we approach the grim milestone of one million deaths in the United States, taking stock of the personal and collective consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic becomes an urgent task for social scientists. This Matrix on Point panel will examine the physical, material and psychological toll of the past two years of rampant disease, on and off social distancing, and shifting economic ground. It will analyze the unequal distribution of the pandemic’s burden across the population, discuss the long-term scarring that may ensue, and contemplate the (possibly more uplifting) lessons to be drawn for the future.


  • Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center
  • Tina Sacks, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare; author, Invisible Visits: Black Middle Class Women in the American Healthcare System (Oxford, 2019)
  • Andrew Wooyoung Kim, Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology, UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology
  • Iris Mauss (moderator), Professor, Berkeley Psychology


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The Public University as Growth Machine: Contradiction or Opportunity?

Professor Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College in dialogue with Regent John A. Pérez, Regent of the University of California, Speaker Emeritus of the California State Assembly.

Davarian Baldwin and John Perez

Is it possible to reconcile growing student enrollment with the housing crisis, increased use of lecturers, and reliance on private capital for housing development reliant on debt-financed student rent and non-unionized labor? As a public university, UC Berkeley aspires to be an agent of class mobility and racial justice. Can these roles be served when the university is also a landlord dependent on property developers and philanthropists to meet the housing needs of a dramatically expanding student body? Is the public university as a growth machine a contradiction or an opportunity as the university aims to fulfill its public mission? The Berkeley Faculty Association brings two leading figures in the public conversation on the public university to unpack its public mission, including its relationship to surrounding cities, the environment, Black and Latinx workers and students, and the conditions of teaching and learning.

Davarian Baldwin is one of the country’s leading urban historians and Black radical thinkers, author of several books and recipient of many awards. His most recent book, entitled In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering our Cities, explores the increasingly parasitic relationship between universities and our cities. Through exhaustive research, Baldwin interrogates the deep social costs of turning universities into growth machines that gentrify neighborhoods, deepen urban inequalities, steward police forces, deplete tax coffers and exploit low-waged Black and Brown labor.

John A. Pérez is a Regent of the University of California, former California Assembly member representing Downtown and East Los Angeles, and the 68th Speaker Emeritus. He has a distinguished record in the labor movement as former Political Director of the California Labor Federation, as well as in fighting for the rights of working families. He has championed affordability and accessibility of public higher education, notably in the landmark Middle Class Scholarship Act. He has been President of the National Speakers Conference and has served on the President’s Commission on HIV/AIDS, and on the Democratic National Committee.

Co-Sponsors: Department of Geography, Graduate School of Education Equity Committee and Social Science Matrix

Register for remote access via Zoom and ask questions of the speakers.

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