Matt Hern

Matt Hern is a founder of Solid State Industries, teaches at multiple universities, and lectures widely. He is the author of What a City Is For: Remaking the Politics of Displacement (MIT Press) among many other books.

  • Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life

    Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life

    A Tar Sands Tale

    Matt Hern and Am Johal

    Seeking new definitions of ecology in the tar sands of northern Alberta and searching for the sweetness of life in the face of planetary crises.

    Confounded by global warming and in search of an affirmative politics that links ecology with social change, Matt Hern and Am Johal set off on a series of road trips to the tar sands of northern Alberta—perhaps the world's largest industrial site, dedicated to the dirty work of extracting oil from Alberta's vast reserves. Traveling from culturally liberal, self-consciously “green” Vancouver, and aware that our well-meaning performances of recycling and climate-justice marching are accompanied by constant driving, flying, heating, and fossil-fuel consumption, Hern and Johal want to talk to people whose lives and fortunes depend on or are imperiled by extraction. They are seeking new definitions of ecology built on a renovated politics of land. Traveling with them is their friend Joe Sacco—infamous journalist and cartoonist, teller of complex stories from Gaza to Paris—who contributes illustrations and insights and a chapter-length comic about the contradictions of life in an oil town. The epic scale of the ecological horror is captured through an series of stunning color photos by award-winning aerial photographer Louis Helbig.

    Seamlessly combining travelogue, sophisticated political analysis, and ecological theory, speaking both to local residents and to leading scholars, the authors propose a new understanding of ecology that links the domination of the other-than-human world to the domination of humans by humans. They argue that any definition of ecology has to start with decolonization and that confronting global warming requires a politics that speaks to a different way of being in the world—a reconstituted understanding of the sweetness of life.

    Published with the help of funding from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan fund

  • What a City Is For

    What a City Is For

    Remaking the Politics of Displacement

    Matt Hern

    An investigation into gentrification and displacement, focusing on the case of Portland, Oregon's systematic dispersal of black residents from its Albina neighborhood.

    Portland, Oregon, is one of the most beautiful, livable cities in the United States. It has walkable neighborhoods, bike lanes, low-density housing, public transportation, and significant green space—not to mention craft-beer bars and locavore food trucks. But liberal Portland is also the whitest city in the country. This is not circumstance; the city has a long history of officially sanctioned racialized displacement that continues today. Over the last two and half decades, Albina—the one major Black neighborhood in Portland—has been systematically uprooted by market-driven gentrification and city-renewal policies. African Americans in Portland were first pushed into Albina and then contained there through exclusionary zoning, predatory lending, and racist real estate practices. Since the 1990s, they've been aggressively displaced—by rising housing costs, developers eager to get rid of low-income residents, and overt city policies of gentrification.

    Displacement and dispossessions are convulsing cities across the globe, becoming the dominant urban narratives of our time. In What a City Is For, Matt Hern uses the case of Albina, as well as similar instances in New Orleans and Vancouver, to investigate gentrification in the twenty-first century. In an engaging narrative, effortlessly mixing anecdote and theory, Hern questions the notions of development, private property, and ownership. Arguing that home ownership drives inequality, he wants us to disown ownership. How can we reimagine the city as a post-ownership, post-sovereign space? Drawing on solidarity economics, cooperative movements, community land trusts, indigenous conceptions of alternative sovereignty, the global commons movement, and much else, Hern suggests repudiating development in favor of an incrementalist, non-market-driven unfolding of the city.

    • Hardcover $27.95
    • Paperback $18.95