On 2–3 October 2018, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and community organizers were invited to participate in “(anti)Blackness in the American Metropolis,” 2-day workshop in Baltimore, Maryland. Each shared research on the effects of anti-Blackness policies and practices in U.S. cities and place-based organizing tactics designed to address and refute them. The event sought to merge a gap in the study of urban black communities exiting between Black Studies and Geography. The event culminated in a keynote address by Dr. Ananya Roy on the political potential of forging intellectual and communal relationships across the Global South. This interview, conducted in the aftermath of the workshop, extends Dr. Roy’s address. Here, she discusses her personal and political growth, her recent intellectual interface with the Black Radical Tradition, as well as her rationale for participating in this inaugural workshop.
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Earlier this year, we held a conference in Los Angeles titled “Housing Justice in Unequal Cities,” which launched a four-year global research network supported by the National Science Foundation. As was the case with your symposium, we seek to create a terrain of scholarship shared by academic research and social movements. Our particular interest is in building housing justice as a field of inquiry. This means reframing the housing question from the vantage point of housing justice struggles, such as tenant unions. And it also means taking seriously the new meanings of land, property, rights, personhood being generated by these movements. The network is committed to a transnational approach to housing justice, connecting housing scholarship in the United States with the African Center for Cities in Cape Town, the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, the Mortgaged Lives Project in Spain, and the Observatory on Evictions at the University of São Paulo. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of this endeavor has been the opportunity to consider the research methodologies that might constitute a shared terrain of scholarship across academic research and social movements. What are rigorous methodologies that allow us to study racialized dispossession and urban displacement and how do such methodologies build power for movements and campaigns? We had the opportunity to take up such questions this summer in a radical summer school that I co-taught with Raquel Rolnik. Bringing together university-based and movement-based scholars from many parts of the world, we tackled methodologies that ranged from counter-mapping to audits from below to popular plans to people’s diaries to participatory memory work to speculation watchlists. The group is now producing a resource guide on methodologies for housing justice and I encourage you to watch for it!
This article was a first step in engaging with the pressing question of sanctuary jurisdictions and cities of refuge in what I call the age of Trumpism. Now, with colleagues at UCLA, I have the opportunity to convene a Sawyer Seminar on the theme of Sanctuary Spaces: Reworlding Humanism. Sawyer Seminars are temporary research centers funded by the Mellon Foundation to “provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.” At the UCLA Sawyer Seminar, we intend to think across Europe and the United States to examine sanctuary policies and practices at the scale of cities. Situated at the present historical moment of resurgent white nationalism and xenophobia, our project is intended to cast a light on migration regimes and state power as well as on the forms of local and transnational activism that create spaces of refuge. With a critical lens around histories of colonial dispossession and racial capitalism, we are ultimately concerned with the place of racial others – the border-crosser, the asylum-seeker, the refugee – in the liberal democracies of the West. What are the terms of inclusion, integration, community, and hospitality through which protection is extended to such racial others and what are the enduring limits of such protection? How does a critical understanding of Western humanism make possible frameworks of redress, justice, and democracy that take account of colonialism and imperialism? Colonial relationalities and juxtapositions are a key methodology for this Sanctuary Spaces endeavor. We hope to think with border studies and indigenous studies about movement, migration, and settlement. We hope to think with concepts of Black fugitivity and the Black Mediterranean to consider geographies of (anti)Blackness as well those of Black life. We hope to connect contemporary frames of sanctuary with histories of marronage (a special thanks to Adam for his work on maroon communities). I hope that such an approach will allow for understandings of what you so beautifully phrase as “the sovereign production of spaces of exception and differentiated vulnerability.”
- historical difference
- urban praxis