Black Women on Space
I use these texts by Black African and Diaspora women to think critically about the ways space is made, performed, sources for critical spatial reading of space in global south contexts – drawing primarily from feminist and postcolonial and decolonial theory, focusing on works within the disciplines of architecture, urbanism, and geography, and focusing on the lived experiences of Black peoples (Africa and the Diaspora) navigating the built environment in global south contexts. In framing the “global south,” I borrow the definition used by theorist Boaventura de Sousa Santos: “the global South is not a geographical concept, even though the great majority of its populations live in countries of the Southern hemisphere. The South is rather a metaphor for the human suffering caused by capitalism and colonialism on the global level, as well as for the resistance to overcoming or minimising such suffering. It is, therefore, an anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-imperialist South. It is a South that also exists in the geographic North (Europe and North America), in the form of excluded, silenced and marginalised populations, such as undocumented immigrants, the unemployed, ethnic or religious minorities, and victims of sexism, homophobia, racism and islamophobia” (de Sousa Santos, 2016: 18-19).
Source: Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2016). “Epistemologies of the South and the Future.” From the European South, 1: 17-29.
The Way They Blow the Horn: Caribbean Dollar Cabs and Subaltern Mobilities
Abstract: In this article, [Best] map[s] subaltern mobilities: practices of movement that [she] define[s] as flexible, vernacular, and specific to postcolonial subjects. [Best] do[es] so through a six-month ethnography of “dollar cabs” used by Caribbean immigrants in Brooklyn, New York—taxis recognized not by exterior color or medallion but by the way they blow their horns, the familiarity between driver and passengers, and other diacritics this article critically attends to. These discursive geographies and practices allow Caribbean immigrants to navigate the U.S. urban landscape and to interact with each other in unique ways. Because dollar cabs often operate outside of dominant structures of licensure, they have been studied primarily as informal paratransit systems. This article offers a critique of the framework of informality as it relates to mobilities of subaltern subjects and argues that, given their focus on systems rather than practices, scholars have foreclosed on the analytical possibilities of fully understanding the social within these geographies of mobility. Through this ethnography [Best] make[s] a significant theoretical and methodological intervention by showing how both international and local subaltern movements and flows have disrupted, produced, and been affected by the global city.
"Woza! Sweetheart! On braiding epistemologies on Bree Street"
Abstract: African hair braiding on Bree Street offers a glimpse into how immigration, black female sexuality and shifts in urban retail economies provide important economic and cultural resources to urban residents and users. As both ontology and epistemology, black hair braiding practices recalibrate local economies, spaces, and aesthetic codes, and thus co-constitute emergent urban identities and a way of knowing the city. The intimate, networked, and fractal nature of black hair braiding spaces disrupts the rigid colonial spatial orders of the city and its architecture. As an epistemology, braiding disrupts the grand narrative of Johannesburg in ‘crisis’, while also disrupting the colonizing and gendered structure of urban studies itself.
Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle
University of Minnesota Press
Demonic Grounds moves between past and present, archives and fiction, theory and everyday, to focus on places negotiated by black women during and after the transatlantic slave trade. Specifically, Katherine McKittrick addresses the geographic implications of slave auction blocks, Harriet Jacobs's attic, black Canada and New France, as well as the conceptual spaces of feminism and Sylvia Wynter's philosophies. (Text from the publisher)
"Hyper-visible Invisibility: Tracing the Politics, Poetics and Affects of the Unseen"
Field: A free journal for architecture
Abstract: This article investigates the poetics of the invisible as a tool of analysis, tracing the hegemony of whiteness in architecture. It marks the inter- section of power and identity through examples such as the transparent line in Toni Morrison’s allegory of the fishbowl, the invisibility depicted in Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, and the concept of ‘hyper-visibility’ introduced by Frantz Fanon, in his phenomenological and psycho- analytical critique, further analysed and ‘queered’ in critical race and cultural studies theorist Sara Ahmed’s work. These authors have inspired the search for a new method in my architectural practice, tracing a poetics produced by ‘others’ under the working concept of ‘hyper-visible invisibility’. Tracing a poetics of the unseen, I seek to go beyond the binary of race, and provide invisibility as an abstraction that escapes the usual dichotomies dominating race, class and gender, in order to focus rather on how these perform and materialize.
"En-gendering critical spatial literacy: Migrant Asante women and the politics of urban space"
Wagadu: A journal of transnational women's and gender studies
Abstract: The power of spatial configurations in our everyday social practices and ideological constructions of place and identity cannot be denied. When it comes to issues of power and socio-physical space, women of predominantly African descent were and still are at the bottom of the barrel (at which level classism, racism, and sexism violently intersect). This phenomenon is evident in various forms and degrees all over the world, especially within the urban context. Thus you will find that women of African descent are often in the majority at the bottom of the urban power hierarchy in Third World cities, such as Accra, as much as in diasporic cities, such as Los Angeles. The unequal development of urban space is clearly represented in the low spatial positioning of these women. This positioning also has grave implications for their struggle for place in the social construction of spatiality, their understanding of their urban social practices, and their identity construction.
"Choosing the margin as a space of radical openness"
Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media
From text: As a radical standpoint, perspective, position, the "politics of location" necessarily calls those of us who would participate in the formation of counter-hegemonic cultural practice to identify the spaces where we begin the process of revision. When asked, "What does it mean to enjoy reading Beloved, admire Schooldaze, and have a theoretical interest in post-structuralist theory?", (one of the "wild" questions posed by the Third World Cinema Focus Forum), I located my answer concretely in the realm of oppositional political struggle. Such diverse pleasures can be experienced, enjoyed even, because one transgresses, moves "out of one's place". For many of us that movement requires pushing against oppressive boundaries set by race, sex and class domination. Initially then it is a defiant political gesture. Moving, we confront the reality of choice and location.
"Imaginary Black topographies: what are Monuments For?"
Black Knowledges/Black Struggles: Essays in Critical Epistemology
Liverpool University Press
Himid, Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire, responds to guidebooks about London and Paris, and she reflects on the perceptions, experiences, memories embedded in these cities' landmarks, which aim to reflect on the important contributions made by Africans of the Black Diaspora to these cities.
The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race
University of Chicago Press
This is a Black Spatial Imaginary
This Is a Black Spatial Imaginary is, in part, a project based on research and inquiry over the past several years into the history and current status of Black neighborhoods and repeating instances of displacement. The work brings into dialogue several sources— official planning documents and records from the City archives, showing the rationales and actions of Portland policymakers; news accounts that depict the framing of the problems and possibilities for the Black community in Portland at different points in Portland’s history; materials from community-based organizations that have participated in political and policy debates; and our own work engaging Black community members, from youth to elders and from “the North to the Numbers,” in several artistic and urban planning processes. For the most part, official planning documents represent a white spatial imaginary— a term used by scholar George Lipsitz to describe the application of urban planning and development regulations and public investments to support a landscape of exclusion, segregation, and the accumulation of property value for private interests.