Research Clusters

The Center on Global Justice is committed to the following research clusters

X-Border Lab

Millions of people are on the move at this moment, escaping political instability, violence, poverty and the disproportionate impacts of climate change. Billions are living in sites of informality. As the world continues to urbanize faster than cities can adapt, we are witnessing an explosion of informal development on the edges of cities everywhere, along with unprecedented urban inequality. The Center on Global Justice explores inequitable urbanization as a global phenomenon, with a special focus on the ingenious strategies of resilience and adaptation within marginalized populations navigating conditions of scarcity. We also investigate cities (in Latin America primarily, but also elsewhere) that have reduced inequality in the city through political and civic strategies that connect the top-down with the bottom-up. For us, these cases serve as critical alternatives to failed urban policy in San Diego, the U.S. and across the world.

UC San Diego sits just minutes from the busiest international land border in the Western Hemisphere, a vibrant urban laboratory at the threshold of two cities, two nations, two continents, and a site of dramatic urban inequality. The border region is a site rich with urban and political creativity, a site of bioregional interdependence and cross-border cooperation. Our work challenges divisive political narratives that criminalize immigrants and characterize our region as a site of enmity and division. Through our UCSD Community Stations, we conduct high-impact research, teaching and advocacy on urban and environmental justice in partnership with neighborhoods across the border region.

Climate Justice

Climate disruption will spare no human being, living or unborn. It poses great global threat to human health and well-being, intensifying and complicating forced migration and all the other critical problems our world faces. Climate justice refers to the disproportionate impact of climate disruption on the world’s most vulnerable people. Vulnerable populations are least responsible for producing the problem, and yet they are at greatest risk and have least capacity to adapt. The CGJ does extensive research, advocacy and consultation on climate disruption and climate justice, and has designed innovative climate solutions education. Through our UCSD Community Stations, we also partner with underserved communities on both sides of the San Diego–Tijuana border region on participatory climate action, adaptation strategies and climate education.

Global Ethics + Cooperation

The CGJ is a forum for critical reflection and dialogue on big ideas about global responsibility and coordinated global strategies for reducing poverty, disease, and the disproportionate impacts of climate disruption on vulnerable populations. We are committed to rethinking academic narratives which are frequently articulated in abstractions that float too high above the ground. Our work grounds global justice thinking in empirical research and stories of everyday life, generating theory that engages the specificity of context, the multiplicity of human experiences, and the urgency of conflict and human deprivation. While the CGJ is committed to community scale action these experiences have been carried into high-impact global initiatives focused on harmful social norms, climate disruption, climate solutions education, informal urbanization, social housing, and human rights in the 21st century.

Social Norms

For many years, Gerry Mackie led the CGJ’s work on “social norms” as an approach to community development, facilitating collaborative research on the theory and practice of organized community adoption of beneficial social norms, in the rural village as well as the urban center. Development agencies and the social sciences lacked well theorized and practical methodologies for identifying social norms and measuring norms change, and the CGJ cooperated with UNICEF, DFID and the Global Citizenship Commission to develop and test such methodologies.

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