Desiree Fields

Economic geography; urban theory; financialization; digital platforms and real estate; urban social movements; constructions of markets; geographical political economy; housing justice

555 McCone Hall

I am an assistant professor of Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. I received my Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

My research explores the financial technologies, market devices, and historical and geographic contingencies making it possible to treat housing as a financial asset, and how this process is contested at the urban scale. At the heart of my work is an interest in how economic and transformations unevenly restructure urban space and social relations, with a particular concern for how urban struggles for justice coalesce around these changes. Within this broadly defined area, I examine two transformations as they relate to housing, a crucial vector of urban inequality and terrain of grassroots political contestation. First, the shift to a finance-oriented political economy; second, the growing global reach and power of digital platforms.

In my current work I am studying how platform business models are being developed for rental housing markets in San Francisco, London, and Berlin, and how activists are developing counter-platforms in pursuit of housing justice. A recent project investigated the emergence of corporate landlords in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, their development of new financial assets backed by rent checks, and how the tools of the post-2008 tech boom aided this process.

I have published widely on the relationships among housing financialization, movements for justice, and digital platforms in journals like Economic Geography; Housing, Theory, and Society; International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and; Urban Studies. I also regularly publish reports, working papers, and essays with community groups like Right to the City and Greater Manchester Housing Action, and in venues ranging from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to Public Books. The National Science Foundation, British Academy, and Independent Social Research Foundation have supported my work.