Spatial Temporalities: The Future-Pasts of Black Dispossession
Lecture by Brandi Thompson Summers, Assistant Professor, Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies,
University of California, Berkeley
How do you map no place? There is an intimacy between Blackness and placelessness that shows up today, in Oakland, CA, as homelessness. In this talk, Dr. Summers draws on the speculative to highlight a long history of restrictive and devastating policy passed and promoted by local governments and developers. She tells the story of West Oakland, in particular, as a testing ground for speculative urbanism–an urbanism based not in speculators’ profit or the spectacles of a city’s self-branding, but in the utopian and dystopian possibilities that unfold in an ongoing (implicitly and explicitly racialized) housing emergency. Ultimately, she considers Black homelessness in West Oakland as occurring in a collapsed or simultaneous, para-science-fictional or afrosurreal time, in which complexes of events that seem mappable along a past-present-future axis are in fact all happening at once.
Dr. Summers is Assistant Professor of Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is co-founder and co-director of the Berkeley Lab for Speculative Urbanisms. Her research examines the relationship between and function of race, space, urban infrastructure, and architecture. Her book, Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City (UNC Press, 2019), explores how aesthetics and race converge to map blackness in Washington, D.C. and the way that competing notions of blackness structure economic relations and develop land in the gentrifying city. Her current research focuses on how uses of space and placemaking practices inform productions of knowledge and power in Oakland, California. She has published several articles and essays that analyze blackness, culture, aesthetics, and urbanization that appear in both scholarly and popular publications, including New York Times, The Boston, Globe, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR), Public Books, and The Funambulist. Dr. Summers is a member of the Editorial Collectives at City and ACME, and is on the editorial boards of Urban Geography, cultural geographies, Environment and Planning F, AAG Review of Books, and City & Community.
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