Spotlighted Faculty: Nina Martin
Professor Nina Martin researches the effects of global processes such as immigration, urbanization, and economic development, on her everyday world. Inspired by her current neighborhood in Durham and her years as a graduate student in Chicago and London, her fieldwork looks at how inequities between different social groups get created and inscribed in urban space. Past research includes the impacts of local policies regulating immigrants, the informal economy, and non-profit organization.
Currently, Martin is investigating street vending and food trucks in Durham and Chicago. Selling food on the streets, which until recently was primarily the work of immigrants, has expanded as “gourmet” food trucks are now common on the streets of many US cities. A central question of Professor Martin’s research is who has access to use the city streets and for what purposes? Even as food trucks co-opt ethnic cuisines and encourage culinary “fusion” in areas such as downtown Durham, the benefits are mostly reaped by non-migrants. Immigrant street vendors tend to be limited to immigrant neighborhoods and more heavily regulated. In fact, there has been a global trend to relocate marginalized citizens from profitable downtown communities into less desirable neighborhoods. Her work addresses the method of geographically distributing resources that disproportionately favors one population over another. By living where she works and studies, she is able to see the effects of globalization on her community and its residents.
Martin teaches classes on global cities, the geography of US cities, and an experiential learning class in Durham. This class gives students an internship at a social service organization in Durham, challenging them to connect theories of urban politics and geography to the real world. Over her seven years teaching at UNC, she has seen a shift in the student population. Students now have grown up with the idea of globalization and, consequently, often enter her classes with an understanding of changes taking place in urban communities. In many cases, her students have traveled to various regions and can share their experiences. Incorporating student knowledge and interests into her classes is a primary goal of her teaching.