Fellowship: Geist and Rosberg Undergraduate Research Grants
Fellowship Year(s): 2020
Project/Theme Title: It’s a Racialized World After All: A Transnational Study of Oakland, California and Durban, South Africa as Sites of Racialized, Yet Resistant Geographies
Abstracts: Traditional, Western geographers have theorized a separation between land, capital, and labor, which naturalizes a conception of geography as completely independent of sociohistorical factors. This conventional ideology strips the landscape of its ongoing relationship with capital and labor, isolating the land from its white supremacist histories, which—according to Andrea Smith—are actualized through processes of global capitalism, genocide, and orientalism. Scholarship in critical geography has revealed that forces of colonialism and imperialism transcend conventional spatial-temporal limitations, constructing geographies of confinement for people in contemporary times. In focusing on Moms 4 Housing—a collective of Black, houseless and marginally housed mothers in Oakland, California—along with Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali)—a Black South African grassroots movement run by and for shack dwellers in Durban, South Africa—I was able to investigate how racial capitalism maps onto the lives of Black people in localized regions. More particularly, I conducted a transnational study that illuminated how African peoples are able to transform racialized sites into sites of resilience. Drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space, my work contributes to a spatial understanding of how neoliberal capitalism confines Black people to particular racialized landscapes across the diaspora. Pivoting to the Black Radical Tradition, I examined what pushes distinct African peoples to mobilize around humanity in ways that advance a transformative and inclusive politic of Freedom. For the initial phase of this interdisciplinary study, I employed digital ethnography, supplemented by an analysis of news articles and digital archives to reveal each group’s conditions of mobilization, tactics of resistance, in addition to formations of political consciousness and solidarity. For the second phase of this project, I plan to conduct 10-12 qualitative interviews of community organizers from each group, in order to further enhance my awareness of the crosses and diversions between both groups. This transnational study works to reveal the similarities, as well as “slippages, openings, and contradictions” between Black people in relation to a global fight against racial capitalism and white supremacy (Hart 14).