Faculty Profile

Javier Arbona
Assistant Professor of Design & American Studies


Javier Arbona is an Assistant Professor at UC Davis, joint appointed in American Studies and Design. He focuses on race, space, and memory. Arbona is a geographer with a background in architecture and urbanism. Previous to his faculty appointment, Arbona was a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis. His dissertation work in the Geography department at UC Berkeley was supported by a Bancroft Library Award and a Ford Foundation Dissertation Year Grant. In addition, Arbona currently collaborates with Demilit (DM), an experimental arts and writing collective.


Arbona’s in-progress book manuscript, based on his dissertation, is tentatively titled: “The City of Radical Memory: Spaces of Home Front Repression and Resistance in the San Francisco Bay Area” – a study of memorial landscapes and erasures of Black resistance against segregation during World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. Arbona collaborated for several years on archival research and interviews with the UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Oral History Office, Rosie the Riveter World War II National Home Front project. Arbona is currently working on new research projects about policing, surveillance, and crisis.

Research Supervision

Arbona serves as affiliate faculty for the UC Davis graduate groups in Cultural Studies and Geography. Students interested in doing scholarly work broadly related to design cultures, urban history and culture, visuality, geographical imaginations, and critical military studies are welcome to get in touch.

Publications and Work

Overall, Arbona has focused on problems of memorialization, visuality, and state violence. He draws from professional experience in architectural design to think spatially about bodies in movement. He’s interested in issues of materiality and archives, and in memory as something situated.

Selected writings below:

Trial by the Bay: Treasure Island and Segregation in the Navy’s Lake, Urban Reinventions: San Francisco’s Treasure Island, Lynne Horiuchi and Tanu Sankalia, eds., University of Hawaii Press (Forthcoming).

Suspunk: Thinking with Suspicious Packages (with Bryan Finoki and Nick Sowers), Harvard Design Magazine, no. 42, Spring/Summer 2016: 174-179. Link

Ecologies of Practices in a Post-Military Cinema, A Universe of Fragile Mirrors, Exhibition Catalog, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Pérez Art Museum Miami, 2016: 205-217.

OKLDCAAN: Capital Building of the Oakland Security Cloud (with Bryan Finoki and Nick Sowers), The Funambulist, no. 1, 2015: 26-31. Link

Forget Me Not, The New Inquiry, 2015. Link

Anti-memorials and World War II Heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area: Spaces of the 1942 Black Sailors’ Uprising, Landscape Journal, vol. 34 no. 2, 2015: 177-192. Link

Zone, and Zone-Out, Progressive Planning, no. 203, Spring 2015: 15-18.

Footprinting Secrecy (with Bryan Finoki and Nick Sowers), Volume, no. 36, Summer 2013: 68-71.

Dangers in the Air: Aerosol Architecture and Its Invisible Landscapes (excerpted from Air, published by MIT Press, and conceptualized by Alphabet City Media, directed by John Knechtel), Places Journal, October 2010. Link 

“It’s in Your Nature: I’m Lost in Paris,” (On the work of Francois Roche and RSie), Architectural Design (UK) – Territory: Architecture Beyond Environment (David Gissen, Special Issue Ed.), Volume 80, Issue 3, May/June 2010: 46-53.

“Home Cooking,” (on the work of Santiago Cirugeda and his studio, Recetas Urbanas), SAM, Basel: Swiss Architecture Museum, No. 2, August 2007: 48-51.

“Vieques, Puerto Rico: From Devastation to Conservation and Back Again,” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Volume XVII, Number 1, Berkeley: The International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, 2005: 33-50. Link

Book Review: Loyd, Jenna (2014), Health Rights are Civil Rights, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2015, Special Site Link

Media Review: Findery, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 74, no. 1, March 2015: 133–136.

Event: Variable World, Bay Model Tour and Salon (with Chris Woebken), Avant, 2015. Link 

Podcast: A Weaponized Urbanity—Morning Drift in Militarized Downtown Oakland (with Bryan Finoki and Nick Sowers), Archipelago, Léopold Lambert, interviewer, May 2, 2014. Link

• Other creative collaborations with the Demilit collective:

Speculative landscape fictions:
“[In]Visible Sites”, for the exhibition Timing Is Everything, University of California, San Diego, University Art Gallery, curated by Michelle Hyun (presented at opening events and accompanied with a La Jolla walk). 2013.  

They Came To The Desert And Were Consumed By A Flickering Fortress, The State: Speculative Geographies, 2012. Link 

Ice Curtain: The End of Victory – A Proposal for a Monument to Cold War Victory by DM 3 , 2012-2014. Link 

Terra Incognita, The New City Reader: Puzzles, no. 03, Istanbul Design Biennial, 2012. Link


Arbona’s teaching in the department will focus on design research and critical sustainability. More info on courses will be available.

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