Academia | Curriculum Vitae

For Media: Please click here for a shorter bio suitable for publication & broadcast.

This page contains my online curriculum vitae, with links to relevant articles and samples of class material. For a print-friendly PDF version, click on the button below:
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Contact Me Via the Web:

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– or directly over email at: melfig@berkeley.edu –

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educ
EDUCATION

openbk Ph.D.  |   University of California, Berkeley

Geography; Advanced to Candidacy May 2014; Degree expected June 2019

cap M.A.  |   University of Chicago   |   August 2011

Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences

cap B.A.  |  University of California, Los Angeles  |  June 2010

Geography / Environmental Studies; minor in Urban & Regional Planning


fiatlux
SUBJECT AREAS

political ecology  socio-ecological dynamics of food systems  food justice & sovereignty 
Latin America & the African Diaspora  critical race studies  decolonization in theory & practice  dialectics & production of space  neoliberal restructuring & commodity chain analysis  informality & social practice in urban peripheries ⬫ theories of capitalist crisis ⬫
political economic geographies of global crisis & social revolt post-2008 


hedgear
OBJECTIVES

My academic work over the last 9 years has explored the socio-ecological aspects of food systems and responses to climate change within marginalized urban communities, from Chicago to the Brazilian Amazon. As an activist and journalist as well as a scholar and educator, I strive to find effective ways of communicating my research and ideas through a variety of academic, artistic, broadcast and online media outlets, in order to inform public dialogue on politically salient issues concerning climate change, food sovereignty, urban sustainability, socioeconomic and environmental justice.

stopwatch ADDENDUM: BERKELEY, 2017

“When a conjuncture unrolls, there is no ‘going back’. History shifts gears. The terrain changes. You are in a new moment. You have to attend, ‘violently’, with all the ‘pessimism of the intellect’ at your command, to the ‘discipline of the conjuncture’.” — Stuart Hall

Recent developments in US politics have compelled a temporary shift in my research focus towards an urgent political & strategic project: understanding the historic realignments of 2016 in the context of acute socio-economic polarization and the fracture lines that have been exposed & deepened in the wake of the presidential election. The unique vantage point from which I have witnessed this process – the 2016 election both from outside on the streets & inside the media apparatus as National Press Director for the Stein/ Baraka Green Party presidential ticket, and from UC Berkeley, inside the target hairs of a resurgent neofascist movement – has shown not only the need and potential salience of such research, but also the immanent urgency with which intellectual endeavor must now be focused in order to clarify the dimensions of this conjuncture and the shifting fields/conditions of possibility upon which political action must now proceed. What occurs in 2018 may be consequential to the direction of this nation, at the very moment when accelerating climate change has raised the stakes on a planetary scale. I see it as my duty as a scholar and citizen to put everything I have at my disposal towards tipping the balance in a positive direction.


focus
RESEARCH

2017-Present

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Mapping the Double Movement: Neofascists vs. An Emerging United Front on University Campuses

UC Berkeley Dept. of Geography | Advisor: TBD
Using ArcGIS’s new web-based, interactive StoryMaps platform, this action-oriented project maps the rise of neofascist & white supremacist activity on US college campuses in 2017, and the anti-fascist coalitions that have formed to resist these incursions. Combining geospatial data with media analysis and interviews/oral histories of targeted students & faculty, I will trace the spatio-temporal patterns of hate attacks & white supremacist organizing at colleges over the past year, as well as broader conditions that inform the actions of a spectrum of social, political, & institutional forces in relation to the extreme right’s campus putsch, I also consider today’s largely ad-hoc dynamics of antifascist organizing in relation to the theory & praxis of the historical United Front that resisted fascism in 1930s Europe.

2014-2016

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‘Forest Cities’ of the Amazon: Agroforestry,
Peri-Urbanism & ‘Living Well’ in Precarious Times

UC Berkeley Dept. of Geography | Advisor: Prof. Michael Watts
This project documents the agrobiodiversity and spatial practices of peri-urban households in Santarém (a key port city on the Lower Amazon) and the ongoing evolution of “cidades da floresta,”  (“forest cities”), a distinctive socio-ecological urbanism that has emerged on the peripheries of cities and towns throughout Amazônia. At a time when climate change, land grabs, deforestation, commodification of resources & globalized consumerism are making themselves known in the heart of the Amazon, the cultivated forests in these informal edge zones – where peri-urban “sprawl,” forest ecology, and agrarian livelihoods come together in a unique synthesis – continue to function as  vital spaces of socio-ecological reproduction for the world’s largest rainforest and its inhabitants.

2010-2011

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Building an Ark to the Promised Land: Memory, Hybridity & Resilience in a Chicago Food Desert

University of Chicago MAPSS Program Advisor: Dr. Kathleen Morrison
This ethnography of the Healthy Food Hub on the South Side of Chicago takes a ‘people-centered’ approach to food systems, seeking the socio-cultural elements that resonate most powerfully with ideas of food sovereignty in US urban communities. In Chicago, this project explores the relationship between family/community food practices and relations of racial subjugation & resistance that are produced, reproduced, & contested over generations, from Mississippi to the South Side. Cooperative food practices – a vital historic legacy of Black survival & resistance in the Delta – are re-emerging in a time of heightened vulnerability for marginalized urban communities; calling upon the power of cooperation not just for food, but for endogenous development, self-determination, and pathways to true liberation.

2009-2010

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The Pervasive Politics of Invisible Trees: Social Histories of the Castor Bean in Bahia, Brazil

Geography Departmental Honors Thesis, UCLA
Advisors: Prof. Judith Carney; Prof. Stephen Bell
This thesis traces the social history of one of the world’s most ubiquitous & ethnobotanically versatile weeds: the castor bean (Ricinus communis) in northeast Brazil. From lamp fuel and folk remedy to industrial raw material and fuel for Allied air forces in WWI, castor products from Northeast Brazil have played an indispensable yet nearly invisible role in the modern global era – not only for world industrialization, but also in the cultural & material resistance of self-liberated African & Afrodescendent peoples in the New World.

2008-2009

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Small Farmers, Big Energy: An Examination of Social Inclusion Policies in Brazil’s Pro-Biodiesel Program

McNair Scholars Research Program, UCLA Advisor: Dr. Susanna Hecht
Analysis of the policy framework and real-world effectiveness of the Brazilian government’s Pro-Biodiesel program, which grants incentives to biodiesel producers who source raw material (primarily castor oil, or mamona) from small-scale farmers in Northeast Brazil, a semi-arid region with the highest concentration of rural poverty in Latin America. The region’s elaborate networks of middlemen traders – who provided vital camouflage for quilombo trade during the slave era – are now sites of value capture, preventing the flow of benefits to farmers.

2008

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A Commonwealth for Increase: Republic, Utopia and the Imaginaries of Empire

Ahmanson Scholars Program, UCLA | Advisor: Kristie McClure
England’s Commonwealth period was a breakthrough moment in the development of the ‘early modern’ parliamentary republic. This step toward democracy, however, was also marked by Britain’s giant strides into colonialism and slave-based plantation agriculture in the Caribbean and North America. This paper examines the potent ideological and legal debates on the contradictory co-existence of commonwealth and empire that informed Thomas Harrington’s utopian manifesto, Oceana – a key inspiration for the legal structure of the Carolina colony, John Locke’s theories on private property, and land-based ideologies of British settler colonialism.


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ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS

2017

book chapter
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The New Food Activism   |   UC Press
edited by Alison Alkon & Julie Guthman                    

CHAPTER: “Collectivizing Markets to Strengthen Communities: Cooperative social practices, self-determination, and the struggle for food justice in Oakland and Chicago”(Co-authored w/ Alison Alkon)
dlpaper (download excerpt in PDF)

2017

book chapter
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Soberania Alimentaria: un dialogo critico
ISS/EHNE-Bizkaia | Eds. Jun Borras & Zoe Brent     

CHAPTER: “La Soberania Alimentaria en la vida diaria”
Spanish & Basque translation of “Food Sovereignty in Everyday Life”
pub (link to Spanish e–book from Scribd)

2015

journal article

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“Food Sovereignty in Everyday Life: Toward a People-Centered Approach to Food Systems”

Globalizations 15(4), pp. 498-512             dlpaper (download PDF)

ABSTRACT: This paper proposes a theoretical approach that de-centers ‘food’ in food-related research, placing social life as the point of departure for a critical analysis of food systems and the search for alternatives. Using a relational conception of food as a nexus of multiple, intersecting social-historical processes, a ‘people-centered’ approach illuminates the social elements that can inform resonant and locally inflected strategies for food sovereignty, particularly for urban communities in the USA.

2015

journal article

journolong
“The PT’s Contradictions & contours of crisis in Brazil”

New Politics (Winter 2015), pp. 42-47

A view from the Brazilian Amazon on the eve of the parliamentary coup. that ousted the Workers’ Party and ended a decade-long era of social policy and redistributive reform.


knowledge
TEACHING

(click on icon next to class title to see course website w/syllabi & selected lecture material)

FALL
2017

Instructor 
dlcourse
click for syllabus / course sample
Resource Management in Global Perspective

Upper-division / Geography & Environmental Planning 323
Sonoma State University

Comparison of various approaches to resources & sustainable development; introduction to political ecology; applied component in latter half of course on organizing & local political action

FALL
2017

Instructor
dlcourse
click for syllabus / course sample
World Regions in Global Context

Upper-division / Geography & Environmental Planning 305
Sonoma State University

Survey course on world regions, cultural diversity & interconnection in a globalized world*
(NOTE: Restructured course mid-semester after the devastating Sonoma / Napa wildfires, to focus on current events and their underlying dynamics: global crises of political economy & climate change post-2008 and their particular regional articulations.) 

FALL
2017

GSI / Teaching Assistant
fiatlux
Economic Geography of the Industrial World

Upper-division | Geography 110
UC Berkeley | Instructor: Dr. John Stehlin

Introduction to concepts of economic geography; industrial location theory; land, labor & industrialization; time-space compression; agglomeration & spatial fix; globalization, logistics & financialization; dynamics of capitalist crisis

 SUMMER
2017

Instructor
dlcourse
click for syllabus / course sample
Food & The Environment

Upper-division | Geography 130 | UC Berkeley

Introduction to food systems; Dynamics of agroecosystems & agrodiversity; History of agriculture from the Neolithic Revolution to the industrial era; Hunger, famine & vulnerability; Modernization, capitalist food regimes & contemporary issues; Climate change & 2008-2010 food riots; Food Justice & Sovereignty movements

 SPRING
2017

GSI / Teaching Assistant
fiatlux
Food & The Environment

Upper-division | Geography 130
UC Berkeley | Professor Nathan Sayre

Introduction to food systems; similar to above. Taught 3 sections; advised undergraduate research

 SUMMER
2015

Instructor
dlcourse
click for syllabus / course sample
Globalization:
Crisis, Conflict & Common Sense in a Time of Revolt

Lower-division | Geography N20 (cross-listed)| UC Berkeley

Introduction to international political economy & globalization; Special topics & following current events in development (Greek debt crisis/referendum & Chinese stock market crash)

 SUMMER
2014

GSI / Teaching Assistant
fiatlux
Globalization:
Conflict, Inequality, and Ethics in the Age of Hyper-Connection

Lower-division | Geography N20 (cross-listed)
UC Berkeley | Instructor: Anthony Fontes

Similar to above; special focus on social conflict

 FALL
2013

GSI / Teaching Assistant
fiatlux
Introduction to Development Studies

Lower-Division | Development Studies 10 (cross-listed)
UC Berkeley | Professor Michael Watts

Fundamentals of international development; contemporary issues & critiques

 FALL
2012

GSI / Teaching Assistant
fiatlux
Postcolonial Geographies

Upper-Division | Development Studies 150 (cross-listed)
UC Berkeley | Professor Gillian Hart

Introduction to postcolonial theory & histories of decolonization in practice; Prof. Hart’s unique”back to front” reading of Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth; Contemporary issues & problems in the postcolonial world (India, South Africa, Haiti)

 

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