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Political Activists and the Social Construction of the "Urban Poor"

David Forrest, a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science, was the first recipient of the CURA Dissertation Research Grant. Against the backdrop of the recent housing crisis and recession, Forrest’s research explored the role that political activists play as representatives of marginalized groups of urban poor people, focusing specifically on antipoverty activists in Minneapolis and their efforts regarding housing and the foreclosure crisis, public education, and welfare rights. Using field research and drawing on contemporary democratic theory, Forrest investigated how political activists’ efforts serve to construct the “urban poor” as a political group with a shared identity, and position them as stakeholders in relation to institutions such as school boards and banks. Ultimately, Forrest is interested in understanding how these constructions impact both the voice of the urban poor in the policy-making process and the larger structural causes of poverty in the United States. An article summarizing Forrest’s dissertation research will appear in a future issue of the CURA Reporter.

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