We share knowledge through teaching, create knowledge through research, and apply knowledge through service. There is no higher calling and no more important contribution to the future than that.
- Dr. J. Blaine Hudson
"Radical simply means
'grasping things at the root.'
- Angela Davis
"Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all."
- W. E. B. Du Bois, 1961
The team at the Root Cause Research Center are researchers and tenant organizers. We believe in class struggle as a theory of change and organize at the intersections of property and policing to build a multiracial base of poor and working-class tenants in the U.S. South. We help build structured tenant-lead campaigns and produce knowledge in solidarity with communities under threat of displacement, surveillance, and police violence. We also design inventive and interactive visuals that break down complex systems of oppression, counter-map dominant narratives and center the perspectives of the people surviving at the center of the problem.
Our work is rooted in scholar Ananya Roy’s concept of “a world with many souths.” Our research holds space for the radical traditions of subversive intellectualism, abolitionism, and militant research as fields of study in scholarly work. Critical to these traditions are the concepts of 1) visibility, 2) recognition, and 3) representation.
We are actively building a genuine community platform and base for radical scholarship in the U.S. South that provides an alternative to the traditionally hierarchical and classist model of research that uses impacted community members as test subjects rather than co-investigators. We produce knowledge and data as an alternative to the dehumanizing and inaccessible research that is typically created by state and private institutions.
We define our base-building practices as (1) expanding the number of people committed to struggling alongside you politically; (2) developing their skills, analysis, and leadership; and (3) deepening our relationships with them. Our base-building practices include regular canvasses and phonebanks to connect with new people; deepening relationships with people in our base through regular one-on-ones; providing training for members to develop skills and analysis; and identifying members of our base to develop into leaders and working with them on leadership development plans. Our target base is poor and working-class people in Kentucky, who are impacted by houselessness and police violence, especially Black people and people living in rural areas.
We are focused on the U.S. south because our cities and rural areas share similar histories of extraction and have faced violent retaliation in building institutionalized local power. We organize both to support local organizing and to coordinate local groups to participate in statewide and national efforts. When we support local organizing, decisions are made by members of the local tenant organizations we work with. When we coordinate statewide efforts, decisions are made by representatives from participating local organizations. Our approach is to let the people most impacted by problems be the ones coming up with the strategies for change. Instead of a “think tank” where a bunch of scholars come up with recommendations and solutions, we train tenants to research the best solutions and build local collective power. Our belief is that the “root cause” of most societal challenges is best known by the people impacted—and that any revolutionary change will be led by them.
In practice, this work looks like...
providing organizing support to tenant unions across Kentucky: Lexington Housing Justice Collective, Rowan County Listening Project, Madison County Tenants Union, the Bowling Green Anti-Eviction Network, Bedford County (TN) Listening Project and Lexington Tenants Union
building structured tenant campaigns
working alongside a coalition of grassroots organizations to produce data resources for policy change that protects tenant’s rights. Last year, our Louisville Eviction Lab report was used to support Rights to Counsel legislation in Louisville that is the first Right to Counsel to pass in the south
For more examples please see our project page