Movement Building, Capitalism, and the State

Tuesday, April 9, 6:30 PM
The Graduate Center CUNY (365 Fifth Avenue)
Skylight room (9th floor)

Movement Building, Capitalism, and the State:
Struggles in Education Transportation & Agriculture

Join authors Ujju Aggarwal, Maria Luisa Mendonca and Kafui Attoh in a conversation on capitalism, the state, and movement building, with Ruth Wilson Gilmore as discussant. Drawing on material from their recently released books, Usettling Choice: Race, Rights, and the Partitioning of Public Education, The Political Economy of Agribusiness, and Disrupting D.C.: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City the authors will discuss the links between the neoliberal restructuring of school systems, food systems, and urban transportation systems.


Unsettling Choice: Race, Rights, and the Partitioning of Public Education

What do rights to “public goods” like education mean when codified as individual, private choices? Following the contestations that emerged in the wake of the Great Recession when public schools navigated austerity by expanding choice-based programs, Unsettling Choice explores what the struggles that ensued over who schools would serve and prioritize—and the contradictions embedded therein—might teach us about a partitioned public. That is, a public entrapped within neoliberal regimes that exceeded privatization and ensured exclusion, competition, precarity, and the cultivation of a consumer citizenship—even while mobilizing the language of equity, diversity, care, and rights. 

The Political Economy of AgribusinessWhat is agribusiness? When did it emerge? In answering these questions, Mendonça traces the global contours of contemporary agriculture, bringing a critical analysis of the origins of agribusiness in the United States and its subsequent international signature. The investigation of historical dynamics reveals that the industrialization of agriculture was a result of a dialectical movement of economic crisis and expansion. This analysis sheds new light on current debates about food sovereignty, agriculture technologies, international markets and financial speculation on farmland. 

Disrupting D.C.: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City

Drawing on interviews with gig workers, policymakers, Uber lobbyists, and community organizers, Katie Wells, Kafui Attoh, and Declan Cullen show how and why Uber was able to conquer US cities. Their new book, Disrupting D.C., argues that Uber’s success was never a sign of urban strength or innovation but a sign of urban weakness and low expectations about what city politics can achieve. Understanding why Uber rose reveals just how far the rest of us have fallen. 



Ujju Aggarwal is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Experiential Learning at The New School’s Bachelor’s Program for Adult and Transfer Students(and affiliate faculty, Global Studies and Anthropology). She is author of Unsettling Choice: Race, Rights, and the Partitioning of Public Education (University of Minnesota Press, 2024). Ujju currently serves on the Board of Teachers Unite, on the Advisory Board of the Parent Leadership Project (Bloomingdale Family Head Start Center, PLP), and PARCEO (Participatory Action-Research Center for Education, Organizing). 

Maria Luisa Mendonça is a research scholar at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). She holds a PhD in Human Geography from the University of São Paulo (USP). Mendonça is a co-founder of the World Social Forum and co-director of Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos (Network for Social Justice and Human Rights – Her recent book Political Economy of Agribusiness (Fernwood Publishing, Halifax, 2023) demonstrates the central role of food systems in international relations and transnational activism.  


Dr. Kafui  Attoh is an Associate Professor of Urban Studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and an affiliated faculty member of the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to a co-author of Disrupting DC: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City, he is also the author of Rights in Transit: Public Transportation and the Right to the City in California’s East Bay (University of Georgia Press 2019).


This event is organized and co-sponsored by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, Department of Anthropology and the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
It is free and open to the public. A picture ID is needed to enter building.