Matrix Working Groups


As UC Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary incubator, Matrix seeks to encourage scholarly collaboration across and beyond the social science division and facilitate rigorous explorations of emerging research areas. Matrix Working Groups can be formed around any topic or theme and may include scholars from humanities and sciences departments. Successful applicants will define a compelling topic, outline a few key readings or proposed events, and provide a list of potential participants and discussants. Priority will be given to groups that have membership from two or more disciplines. Matrix will also produce profiles of the different reading groups and will provide a platform for each group to create a blog, which will be hosted on our website.

Please contact Jessica Stewart, Associate Director, at with any questions.

Fall 2019 Working Groups

Social Science Matrix is pleased to host nine interdisciplinary working groups for the Fall 2019 semester. Members of the UC Berkeley community who are interested in participating in one of these groups should contact the organizer(s) listed below the abstracts.

AI & Philosophy

Abstract: The normative and technical questions that arise in integrating AI and society contain many unknown unknowns. Because we don’t know in advance what needs to be known, current efforts to survey AI & philosophy should focus on the union, not the intersection, of those two areas. What about philosophy should AI researchers know? What about AI should philosophy researchers know? The meetings will be participant guided. At the end of each meeting, we hope to collect a list of important readings and topics, developed from multiple persons from multiple disciplines and backgrounds. Attendees are encouraged to bring and eat lunch. Estimated calendar: 10/9: Intro Meeting & History of Philosophy; 10/23: Value Theory; 11/6: Reality & Knowledge; 11/13: Reasoning in CS/Stats/Psych; 11/20: CS Basics; 12/4: Formal Decision Theory; 12/11: Final Meeting & Overarching Synthesis.

Contacts: Thomas Gilbert,; Mahendra Prasad,

Colonial Technologies

Abstract: The Colonial Technologies Working Group is a cohort of scholars from across the hard sciences, social sciences, and humanities working together to better understand colonization and/as its many technologies. Together, we close-read texts from the discourses of indigenous studies, black feminism, and gender and women’s studies, often blending analysis of theoretical and creative texts. By studying nation-building and racialization techniques in the United States as they relate to science, technology, and speculative methods, we aim to push the boundaries of our individual understandings of U.S. history and its legacies of colonial oppression.

Contact: Adriana Green,

Contemporary Life and Death in the City

Abstract: Contemporary life is increasingly characterized by the complex and dynamic nature of the urban space and society. As researchers within the fields of the social sciences, the humanities, and of the world, how can we come to apprehend a society that is in unceasing transformation and constant motion? What theoretical approaches can come to terms with the human psychologies of desire, ambition, fear, and loss that are associated with equally dynamic conditions of construction, creation, eviction, and expulsion? This reading group attempts to address questions of contemporary urban living through dialogue, contemplation, and exploration across research disciplines and backgrounds.

Contact: Chris Chan,

Critical Environmental Reflexivity

Abstract: In education and social work, critically reflexive practices like journaling, meditation, and structured discernment are used to connect research and praxis in support of critical self-awareness, social liberation, justice, and navigation of power and oppression. A handful of researchers and practitioners have started to extend theories and models of critical reflexivity to environmental research and stewardship. Critical environmental reflexivity may support the environmental practitioner in uniting disparate fields of inquiry with an exploration of the self in order to engage questions like: What is the experience of climate grief, in both embodied and intellectual terms? What do we owe to each other, both within and across species, in this time of rapid planetary change? And, how can transdisciplinary inquiry support the negotiation of wicked environmental problems and unite internal and external epistemologies? All members of the Berkeley community are welcome in this working group. To stay updated, please enter your contact information here.

Contact: Lucy Andrews,


The Gender/Sexuality working group discusses works-in-progress on gender and sexuality, as well as works that use gender and sexuality as a way of interrogating the subfields of race and ethnicity, immigration, religion, labor, work, development, social theory, crime and punishment, culture, aging and the life course, social movements, education, and medicine, among others.

Contact: Margaret Eby,

Historical Social Science

Abstract: The Historical Social Science Workshop features presentations and discussions of historically motivated and historical-methodological work from faculty and advanced graduate students, particularly works that address questions of theory, empirics, and methods between political science, sociology, and history. The group has already assembled a diverse group of faculty sponsors from across subfields in political science and sociology. They plan to feature a workshop once a month, including a paper presentation by a faculty member, with short discussant comments, a period of time devoted to historical-methodological dialogue across disciplines, and then an open discussion. Scheduled presenters include Professors Paul Pierson and Eric Schickler, from the Department of Political Science; Dylan John Riley, from the Department of Sociology; and Noah Nathan, a political scientist from the University of Michigan.

Contact: Jae Yeon Kim,; Otto Kienitz,

Toward an Intersectionality of Natural Resources

Abstract: In our rapidly warming world, the social study of natural resources is more necessary than ever. New technologies mean there is oil, gas, and mineral extraction from previously inaccessible areas and formations, with socio-ecological implications. We could also take a broader view, and think of fish stocks, plantations, and groundwater as among the many non-mineral resources that complicate and sharpen our understanding of natural resources and their links with society. Across disciplines, types of resources, and methods of extraction, a few key themes emerge from recent scholarly work. This reading group focuses on two of those themes: that resources can be understood as interlinked, and that a human-centered analysis of resources is no longer sufficient. With these themes in mind, we can start to consider what an intersectional approach to natural resources might look like, and how that could shape future research in this field.

Contact: Stephanie Postar,

Latin American Cities

Abstract: The manners in which Latin American cities have been imagined vary significantly and present us with a diverse spectrum of ideas, movements, and constructions. From the cliffs of Lima to the busy streets of Sao Paulo, and from the grand boulevards of Buenos Aires to the meandering alleys of downtown Mexico City, each of these urban formations has been studied and represented in unique ways throughout their existence. This working group will examine the complex processes through which Latin American cities have been constructed and imagined. It will also explore the respective challenges that cities face in the current age. Participants will use an interdisciplinary approach that will take into account various policies and infrastructures and their effects on these urban spaces, as well as the literary and film archives that have helped shape the imaginaries surrounding cities in the region. Furthermore, we hope that the working group will broaden the dialogue that exists between Latin America and other regions in the Global South.

Contact: Francisco Trejo Morales,


The V&I Lab is a home for research on violence and intervention, and we will be conducting a working group on policing. We study violence broadly construed, including political conflict, but also criminal violence, and we examine different types of intervention designed to mitigate violence. We seek to conduct basic and applied research with implications for both academics and practitioners. The V&I Lab provides a forum for collaborative work on these topics. We are unified by our commitment to this research, and use the lab to effectively conduct existing projects and develop new projects together. This year, in our Matrix Working Group specifically, we will be examining topics relating to policing, including (1) attitudes towards the police by civilians; (2) attitudes towards civilians by the police; and (3) how policing institutions are structured across lower-income countries.

Contact: Aila Matanock,