Rochester Institute of Technology

New York

Local Cultures – Global Spaces: Communities, People and Place



Transforming a Precarious Present – Politics, People & Place

How do we imagine the people that we advocate for, write about, and plan for? How do social differences around race, gender, class, ethnicity, and disability impact how we envision future worlds for others? How is the making of inclusive communities a cultural or societal process? How can research methods in anthropology and sociology inform the decisions of designers, planners and policy makers in constructing a more inclusive world?

This call poses these questions in the belief that socially grounded research is critical for redesigning and modeling livable worlds. It can uncover commonsense knowledge, cultural mindsets and philosophies of life that can reveal prospects for human-centered design and governance. It can contribute to improvements in urban environments, inclusive communities and sustainable neighborhoods by taking into account people’s everyday (lived) experiences, by exploring power relations and, ultimately, by learning from the perspectives, values, memories, imagination, and dreams of those whom we design for.

We suggest that when thinking about transforming the present, we need to draw on multiple conceptual frameworks – ranging from feminist scholarship, critical race theory, indigenous studies, and cultural studies to science and technology studies, (dis)ability studies, and approaches to the social aspects of technical-rational thinking. We seek to investigate how race, gender, class, and other forms of difference impact transformational thinking in various domains: from everyday urban life experiences to social systems and governing regimes. Planning or designing for people requires consideration of the social and cultural worlds inhabited by those desiring to transform a precarious present.



Scholars from a variety of disciplines and fields are welcome to submit research on interrelated topics as:

  • Environment and Health: How do critical environmental concerns (air, water, food, global warming) shape and influence urban planning with attention to local infrastructures, pollution, disadvantaged neighborhoods, health disparities, dangerous work conditions, and unsustainable housing?
  • Communities and Sustainability: How does what we design and build impact people, communities, sustainability (food, work, housing, clean water, healthcare) and climate change? How can people participate in local planning practices and by what mechanisms can their voices be heard?
  • Data and Technology: How do our various methods of data collection and analysis target inequalities and in what ways can technologies and human-centered design be used to empower communities and people?
  • History, Art, and Heritage: How do histories of people and places influence questions of heritage, memory preservation, and cultural traditions and what role do critical voices play in debates on the spatial design, artistic representation and digital archives of remembrance or historical or archaeological sites?
  • Teaching and Learning: How do we address issues of culture, community, indigeneity, gender, race, and disability in our educational strategies, pedagogies, curricular approaches and the very design of spaces of learning?
  • Media and Communication: How do architecture, design aesthetics and socio-cultural debates intersect with new media and digital technologies in communicating and recording people’s past and present urban life experiences?


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Research Context


The Department of Sociology and Anthropology supports an interdisciplinary approach to the study of global, urban, historical, and cultural experience, practices, and change. Our faculty are scholarly experts in archaeology, cultural anthropology, economics, education, folklore, psychology, and sociology which represent academic disciplines dedicated to the understanding of human social life, past and present. We share a commitment to global justice, human rights, and sustainable futures. As faculty in historically related social science disciplines, our research and teaching crosscut important themes and social issues related to gender, class, race and ethnicity, exploitation, domination, and the multiple embodiments of power.



Uli Linke PhD, Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

More information: Rochester Institute of Technology  |  RIT Research  |  Department of Sociology and Anthropology  |   College of Liberal Arts

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