Rethinking Homelessness and Urban Poverty in Los Angeles and Beyond

Endorsed by the Western History Association

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Gender and Sexuality; Race; Urban and Suburban


This roundtable considers the vexing issue of homelessness and urban poverty in Los Angeles and the Bronx. It foregrounds homelessness as a key crisis exacerbated by these uncertain times that far from being exceptional reveals a continuity with post WWII policies and trends. The panel explores two under-examined causes of homelessness, war and the antipathy of people who identify as queer, and how these forces ghettoized refugees, asylum seekers, and people who identify as queer in homeless districts nationwide such as Skid Row, Los Angeles and select communities in the Bronx.

Session Participants

Chair: David K. Yoo, University of California, Los Angeles
David K. Yoo is Vice Provost and Professor of Asian American Studies and History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Asian American History (with Eiichiro Azuma) and currently serves as a series editor with Oxford University Press, the University of Hawaii Press and the University of Illinois Press. He has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar and held fellowships from the American Council on Education, the Haynes Foundation, and the Huntington Library.

Panelist: Cindy I-Fen Cheng, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Cindy I-Fen Cheng is Robinson Edwards Professor of American History and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2018 to 2020, she served as the Director of the Asian American Studies Program. She is the award-winning author of Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race during the Cold War (NYU Press, 2013) and editor of The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies (2016). Her articles have appeared in the American Quarterly and the Journal of Asian American Studies. Her new book, “Skid Row Refuge: Central Americans and the 1980s Homelessness Crisis in the U.S.,” explores war as an under-examined cause of homelessness such that U.S. intervention in the affairs of Central America precipitated the mass arrival of Central American asylum seekers who sought refuge in Los Angeles’s Skid Row.

Panelist: Jih-Fei Cheng, Scripps College
Jih-Fei Cheng is assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Scripps College. Previously, he worked in HIV/AIDS social services and queer and trans of color grassroots organizing in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego. His research examines the intersections between science, media, surveillance, and social movements. His first book project, titled "Materialist Virology," historicizes the advent of the field of virology within the context of tobacco agricultural industrialization and racial capitalism. He is also at work on a second project, tentatively titled "Unbecoming Chinese," that engages how virology and genetics have come to structure historical memory, global industries, and the rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

Panelist: Nic John Fajardo Ramos, Drexel University
Nic John Ramos is an Assistant Professor of History, Africana Studies, and the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University. Ramos is the recipient of the Audre Lorde Prize, the Stanley Jackson Prize, the Ray Allen Billington Prize, and the Wise-Sussman Prize. His book manuscript, “Policing Health: Making Race, Sexuality, and Poverty Productive in Global Los Angeles, 1965-1986” explores the interlocking relationships between policing and medicine in a Black-led academic medical center built as a response to the 1965 Watts Uprisings. His published work can be found in American Quarterly, the Journal of History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, GLQ, and the Journal of Popular Music Studies.

Panelist: Eric Tang
Eric Tang is an Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He also directs the university’s undergraduate major in Race, Indigeneity, and Migration. His first book, Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the NYC Hyperghetto is an ethnographic account of refugee life in some of New York City’s most impoverished and socially marginalized neighborhoods. A former community organizer, Tang has written widely on race and urban social movements.