Samina Raja

Professor and Director, UB Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab

(Dis)entangling research(ers) from/in place

The theorist and economist Amartya Sen challenges the idea of identity as a solely emergent object. Clarifying Sen’s work, Qizilbash illustrates that Sen’s notion of identity — individual, perceived (by others), and socially situated — are the result of reasoned choices subject to more than minimal constraints. Drawing on this body of work, in this lecture, Samina Raja reflects on the importance of the constrained identities of planning scholars in making and unmaking spaces and places.

For whom do they research, and from where do they draw their frames of inquiry? The identities of the researcher influence the relevance of their research, the rigor of their research, and, ultimately, urban planning as a field of inquiry and practice. Raja will draw on examples of food systems research in the cities of Buffalo and Srinagar to discuss the epistemological possibilities and challenges of researchers’ positionality vis-a-vis particular places, times, and people. In doing so, she explores the ethical dilemmas researchers encounter when entering, residing, and researching in, and often exiting the places of their planning and design inquiry and practice — places where they may belong or unbelong by virtue of their identities.

Dr. Samina Raja is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. Trained as a civil engineer and urban planner, Dr. Raja’s transdisciplinary research focuses on the potential (and limits) of community-led planning and policy for creating equitable and healthy communities. 

Wednesday, Feb. 14

6-7:30 p.m. | 403 Hayes

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The School of Architecture and Planning is an AIA CES Approved Provider. This course is AIA CES Registered and approved for 1 Learning Unit (LU).

Samina Raja, headshot.

UB Food Lab and Equitable Urban Agriculture Practicum, University at Buffalo; Samina Raja.


Raja is the founder and Director of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab (UB Food Lab). With community and academic partners, Raja co-leads Growing Food Policy from the Ground Up, a multi-year action-research initiative to build the capacity of growers of color to shape urban agriculture policy in Buffalo, NY and Minneapolis, MN.

A larger, national-scale project Growing Food Connections focuses on the use of local government planning to strengthen community food systems. Her work outside of the US highlights how indigenous farmers in Global South cities promote food sovereignty, particularly in cities experiencing protracted crises such as Srinagar, Kashmir. A widely published scholar, Dr. Raja is the recipient of numerous awards including for her mentorship (2020 Distinguished Postdoc Mentor), community-engaged work (2016 Excellence in Community-University Engagement), and scholarship (2014 Dale Scholar). Her latest monographs, co-authored with colleagues, include Local government planning for community food systems: Opportunity, innovation and equity in low-and middle-income countries (2021) and Planning for Equitable Urban Agriculture (2024), which argues for the idea of planning as public nurturance.