Rebecca Ginsburg became an architectural historian because she was excited by the idea that close, careful study of buildings and landscapes can reveal rich and significant details about the people that inhabit or inhabited a given place. Architectural history and landscape history are especially useful for studying the lives of the poor. Because they don’t leave many written records, physical remains are often the best way to uncover the conditions in which marginalized, oppressed people lived. Accordingly, her research and teaching have examined domestic worker houses during South African apartheid; the landscapes of urban and plantation slavery in the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa; and prisons, among other topics. While she loves doing historical research and teaching on the Urbana campus, she also believes that great universities should extend their services to the neediest in the community. In that spirit, she co-founded the Education Justice Project. EJP is a campus unit that allows men incarcerated at a nearby medium-security state prison to enroll in U of I courses, produce scholarship, and provide service to their communities. Her goals include supporting her students at the prison and on the Urbana campus in their own struggles against social injustice.
Photo by Becky Ponder