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Arijit Sen

“Restorative Ligaments: Spaces of Everyday Resistance and Grassroots World-Making in Milwaukee’s Northside”

Arijit Sen

University of Wisconsin–Madison, Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies, Spring Term

Arijit Sen is curating a community archive and compiling an urban history of Milwaukee. “Restorative Ligaments” collects grassroots narratives from the perspective of marginalized and often-ignored African American and Southeast Asian American residents in Milwaukee’s hyper-segregated Northside neighborhoods. Over a period of eight years, with the help of students and numerous local residents, Sen has collected 230 hourlong interviews and over one hundred shorter interviews describing how residents reclaim their world from a sea of turmoil produced by structural racism, institutional neglect, poverty, and scarcity. During the fellowship period, he hopes to begin work on a manuscript that documents how publicly engaged historiography is inextricably connected to data analysis methods, the engaged process, and place. The manuscript will seek to contribute to our methods of reading urban cultural landscapes by examining how this landscape is experienced and imagined by community insiders, often in vastly different ways than how it is perceived by outsiders and experts. 

As an architect and urban historian, Arijit Sen explores how our knowledge of everyday places and ordinary people can help us understand social change and strive towards a just and equitable world. His publications examine the cultural landscapes of immigrant communities and his current research examines methods to interpret cities from the bottom up, by engaging voices and histories of marginalized urban communities. Since 2012, he has directed an action-research public humanities project that engages students and community members in a collaborative exploration of the history of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. Since 2017, he has partnered with the Newark-based Humanities Action Lab to contribute to an international exhibit on environmental justice. Sen cofounded the multicampus Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures area of doctoral research on architecture and cultural landscapes and served on the board of directors of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Vernacular Architecture Forum.