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Fonna Forman

Associate Professor of Political Science / Director, UCSD Center on Global Justice

Fonna Forman is founding Director of the UCSD Center on Global Justice.  She is a political theorist best known for her revisionist work on Adam Smith, recuperating the ethical, social, spatial and public dimensions of his thought.  She is author of Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy (Cambridge, 2010), and many essays on Smith’s relevance for contemporary debates on ethics, globalization and public culture.  Since 2009 she has served as Editor of the Adam Smith Review, the premier international journal of Smith’s thought.

Forman’s research has become increasingly ‘grounded’ in recent years, engaging issues at the intersection of ethics, public culture, urban policy and the city - including human rights at the urban scale, climate justice, border ethics and equitable urbanization.  Recent publications include a volume with Amartya Sen on critical interventions in global justice theory, a volume with Teddy Cruz on urban informality, a research collaboration on “grounded normative theory” (working with similarly grounded theorists to develop a set of empirical methods for political theory), and thematic papers on ‘municipal cosmopolitanism’, ‘cross-border citizenship’, ‘climate migration’, and ‘participatory urbanization’.  She is presently writing a monograph on the diverse legacies of Adam Smith in Latin America.

Blurring conventional boundaries between theory and practice, and transgressing the fields of architecture and urbanism, political theory and urban policy, visual arts and public culture, Forman partners closely with UCSD urbanist and architect Teddy Cruz on a variety of urban research agendas and civic / public interventions in the San Diego-Tijuana border region and beyond (see list here).  From 2012-13 they served as special advisors on civic and urban initiatives for the City of San Diego and led the development of its Civic Innovation Lab.  Together they founded the UCSD Cross-Border Initiative, a platform for engaged research and teaching on poverty and social equity in the border region.  And they are principals in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice investigating issues of informal urbanization, civic infrastructure and public culture, with a special emphasis on Latin American cities.  Their work has been profiled widely in important publications including Domus, ArtForum, The New York Times, Next City, and e-flux; and exhibited in prestigious cultural venues across the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; Das Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; the Medellín Museum of Modern Art; and the 2016 Shenzhen Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture, among others.  Forman + Cruz are currently completing two monographs: one on ‘cross-border citizenship’; and another, a cross-section of their public interventions, Top-Down / Bottom-Up, under contract with Hatje Cantz, Berlin.  Their work has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ArtPlace America, the Surdna Foundation, the PARC Foundation, the San Diego Foundation, and generous gifts from Richard C. Blum and Daniel Yankelovich, among others.

Forman has served on various civic and policy advisory bodies at local and international scales, including the Global Citizenship Commission (2013-6) chaired by the Rt. Hon Gordon Brown, advising UN policy on human rights in the 21st century.  Most recently she has partnered with renowned UCSD climatologist, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, on projects that investigate the social and ethical dimensions of climate change, including a 2017 paper on ‘climate migration’ for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, an international task-force on how to keep global warming below 2° C; and serving as Vice-Chair of the University of California’s Bending the Curve report of 2015 (a set of ten scalable solutions for climate stability designed by 50 faculty from diverse disciplines across the University of California). In 2016-7 Forman and Ramanathan piloted a system-wide University of California undergraduate course on integral and scalable solutions to climate change.

Forman is an advocate for engaged social science, and deepening university-community research partnerships.  At UC San Diego, she is affiliated with the Center for Energy Research, and serves on the advisory boards of the Climate Neutrality Task Force, the Urban Studies and Planning program, the Global Health program, FF21 (Food and Fuel for the 21st Century), the Center for Tomorrow’s California and the US-Mexico Binational Consortium on Border Challenges, a network of research universities across the border region.

Ph.D. University of Chicago 2001

Political Theory



Curriculum Vitae