Tessa Eidelman is a PhD candidate in Community Research and Action at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN). This interdisciplinary program brings together fields such as community psychology, sociology, and urban studies.
Tessa recently conducted her dissertation research in her hometown of Cape Town, South Africa. Her ethnographic study follows Reclaim the City (RTC) –a social movement seeking to address racial segregation and inequality in this post-apartheid city. The movement calls for “spatial justice” and demands affordable and public housing in historically white and well-resourced areas. The study explores how RTC imagines and pursues spatial justice and how people, spaces, and social relations are being altered through RTC’s activism.
Tessa locates her work in the field of critical social psychology, drawing on scholarship in urban studies, critical race studies, and the work of decolonial thinkers. This approach aims to address the apolitical and decontextualized understandings of (de)segregation that are often advanced in psychology.
During her time in Cape Town, Tessa participated in RTC and worked as a member of the movement’s Eviction Task Team –a group researching evictions, monitoring court processes, advising tenants about their rights, and working to resist unjust evictions. She has also been involved in affordable housing advocacy in Nashville. Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, she worked as an occupational therapist in the field of mental health. She plans to continue her involvement in the land/housing justice space after completing her doctoral studies.