Justin Steil

Justin Steil

Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2020-2021: W. E. B. Du Bois Fellow
Justin Steil

Justin Steil is an Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research examines legal and spatial dimensions of socio-economic inequality. 

He is the co-editor of Furthering Fair Housing: Prospects for Racial Justice in America’s Neighborhoods  (Temple University Press, 2020), The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates about Housing, Segregation, and Opportunity (Columbia University Press, 2019) and Searching for the Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2009).  His research has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Politics and Society, Urban Studies, the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, and the Journal of the American Planning Association, among other journals.

Race, Space, and Law: Municipal Segregation Ordinances and the Racialized Construction of Citizenship and Belonging Through Control Over Space

This project focuses on the effects of, and resistance to, local segregation ordinances at the beginning of the 20th Century, as well as on their relation to local immigration ordinances enacted at the beginning of the 21st Century. Drawing from scholarship in African-American studies, law, history, sociology, and urban planning, Race, Space, and Law analyzes how these 20th Century segregation ordinances catalyzed white-supremacist violence and reshaped conceptions of property rights, as well as how Black and white residents mobilized to resist these ordinances through collective action, political engagement, and legal strategy. As a whole, the project advances a theory of how race, space, and the law intersect in the construction of race and citizenship. It enhances our understanding of how power is exercised through control over space, and how local housing and planning policies play a central role in racializing belonging, historically and today. It also increases our comprehension of how African-American advocates, organizers, business owners, and others worked together to fight these white supremacist laws and created networks of resistance across the country that helped the NAACP grow and set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement.