An urban ethnography of power relations and the racialization of space
(Middle Tennessee State University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines a rich body of oral narratives co-created with African Americans that form an urban ethnography of the power relations inscribed on the landscape by racializing movement in space.
Paper long abstract:
People of color in the United States have been obligated to move through public space in particular ways, dictated by law and social custom. Narrators create cognitive maps of movement in the city shaped by racial codes of behavior. The maps change over time as law and social custom changes. Narrators create the maps in relation to an imagined race neutral urban space. The fluidity of the maps is also influenced by status, gender, class, and skin tone. This paper examines a rich body of oral narratives co-created with African Americans from 2004 to the present focusing on how men and women narrate their concepts of racialized space. It moves from narratives about the larger landscape—the city—to smaller, more personal public places—the sidewalk, the café, the doctor's office—to intimate sites of contact in the public sphere. Many of the narratives describe complex flows of controlled movement dictated by racial boundaries in the context of capitalism. The narratives form an urban ethnography of the power relations inscribed on the landscape by racializing movement in space.
Ethnographies of urban public spaces