A team of UCLA researchers led by Ananya Roy, the Meyer and Renee Luskin Professor of Inequality and Democracy, has received a $225,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a yearlong seminar series examining how cities serve as spaces of refuge.

The grant will be used to launch a Sawyer Seminar in 2020 titled, “Sanctuary Spaces: Reworlding Humanism.” Acting as temporary research centers, Sawyer Seminars are intended to provide support for comparative research and intensive study in the humanities and social sciences.

Thinking across Europe and the United States, the UCLA Sawyer Seminar will examine sanctuary policies and practices at the scale of cities. Situated at the present historical moment of resurgent white nationalism and xenophobia, the seminar will focus a critical lens around histories of colonial dispossession and racial capitalism. The series is ultimately concerned with the place of racial others — the border-crosser, the asylum-seeker, the refugee — in the liberal democracies of the West. What are the terms of inclusion, integration, community, and hospitality through which protection is extended to such racial others and what are the possible frameworks of redress, justice, and democracy that take account of colonialism and imperialism?

The seminar will be led by Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, who will serve as principal investigator, in collaboration with Leisy Abrego, professor of Chicana and Chicano studies; Gaye Theresa Johnson, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies and African American Studies; and Maite Zubiaurre, professor of Germanic languages and Spanish and Portuguese.

“Today, more than ever, immigration and border policies are a matter of life and death,” Roy said. “It is imperative for scholars to participate in the making of frameworks of humanism and justice that challenge state violence. Such an endeavor requires comparative, criticaI and historical thinking. That is the goal of the Sanctuary Spaces project, and UCLA, with its community of scholars and commitment to public education, is ideally positioned to undertake such work.”

The Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, which Roy leads, will be instrumental in organizing the series. UCLA is one of only 10 universities worldwide to receive this award in 2019.