December 1, 2015
Jackie Smith, Professor of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh
Researchers have long documented the centrality of cities to processes of globalization. Global trade and finance relies upon the technological and social infrastructure provided by cities. And global integration and industrial development has led to unprecedented migration of people from rural to urban centers. Processes of urbanization, however, are based on the dispossession of rural and Indigenous people and communities, who are denied access to traditional lands and livelihoods. And within cities, low-income residents and people of color suffer disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards and face limited economic opportunities due to a variety of discriminatory practices, including racially biased policing. As cities seek to expand and attract new development, these same residents are often displaced from their communities—and from the city altogether—to accommodate urban gentrification. But cities are increasingly sites of resistance, and this presentation discusses some examples of how cities are becoming leading places for advancing human rights.
Jackie Smith is professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her books include Social Movements in the World-System: The Politics of Crisis and Transformation (with Dawn Wiest) and Social Movements for Global Democracy, among other co-edited and co-authored collections on social movements and global social change. Smith has long been active in local, national and international human rights organizing. She has worked with Jobs with Justice and is currently organizing with the Human Rights City Alliance in Pittsburgh. She is co-founder of the International Network of Scholar-Activists and currently serves on the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link, a technology and communications rights organization.