Kuni Kamizaki Receives 2023 Janet Smith Emerging Activist Scholar Research Award (Sponsored by the Voorhees Family and Individual Donors)

Dr. Kuni Kamizaki (University of Toronto) was selected as the recipient of the 2023 Janet Smith Emerging Activist Scholar Research Award.

This new annual award recognizes an emerging activist scholar whose research record shows a direct relationship between activism, scholarship, and engagement with community(ies). This award honors the memory of Dr. Janet Smith, Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement. As an expert in local and national housing policy, Janet dedicated her career to fighting alongside community groups for a right to place and representation within the city. Janet brought to this work a deep respect for the self-determination of communities. Working alongside communities and activists, she brought her own astute analysis – and fierce critique – of the political economy of housing production in the United States. 

Janet’s energy, enthusiasm, and determination was inspirational to all that worked with her. This award honors Janet’s contributions as an activist-scholar as well as her commitment to supporting emerging scholars in developing their own models for community engagement and activism.


“In a pool of very strong applicants, Kuni Kamizaki stood out as embodying the ethos of an activist-scholar and the spirit of Janet Smith’s work.

Kuni’s work on community land trusts (CLT) demonstrates his commitment to the type of engaged research that “embeds a critical analysis of the root causes of structural issues and everyday experiences into the collective process of organizing, participatory planning, and community action.” Indeed, the committee was impressed by the impact his work has already had on the formation of land trusts in Canada, and the long-lasting impact his work on projects like the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust will have for decades to come. As his letter of support explained, Kuni has become a key figure for CLT work and was pivotal in the development of the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts.

The committee was also struck by the breadth of Kuni’s research. In addition to his work on CLTs, Kuni’s dissertation “examines the history of community care and development within the larger social economy” of Tokyo. Kuni is the rare person who can balance truly engaged community research that has tangible impacts, with rich scholarly work that pushes the field of urban studies forward.”


Amanda Kass, DePaul University (Chair); Chandra Ward, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Michael R. Fisher Jr., San José State University; Josh Newton, The University of Texas at Arlington; Anaid Yerena, University of Washington Tacoma


Kuni Kamizaki is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Planning in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto, where he earned his Ph.D. in Planning in 2022. He will be joining the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) at the University of British Columbia as an Assistant Professor from July 2023. Kuni’s research focuses on urban transformation in global cities with an emphasis on issues of poverty, displacement and housing inequality. His dissertation examined the decline of Tokyo and planning responses to unprecedented nation-wide population shrinkage and aging in the time of post-growth Japan.

In addition, he has undertaken community-engaged research to explore the potential of community land trusts (CLTs) to address displacement and pursue housing justice in Toronto. He is a founder of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust (PNLT). He has continued to collaborate with PNLT through research, strategic planning and organizing. As the CLT Project Coordinator for UofT’s Affordable Housing Challenge Project, he also contributed to Toronto’s CLT movement building by supporting emerging grassroots CLTs such as the Kensington Market CLT and Toronto Chinatown Land Trust. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts.


The Urban Affairs Association (UAA) is an international professional organization for 700+ urban scholars, researchers, policy analysts, & public service providers. UAA is dedicated to creating interdisciplinary spaces for engaging in intellectual and practical discussions about urban life. Through theoretical, empirical, and action-oriented research, UAA fosters diverse activities to understand and shape a more just and equitable urban world.

In addition to hosting an annual conference, UAA sponsors ongoing professional development opportunities; Upsilon Sigma: The Urban Studies Honor Society; and two peer-reviewed journals, the Journal of Urban Affairs and the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City. You can find UAA on the web, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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