Download a PDF of the full conference schedule, with abstracts, HERE — or read the full text below:
Race, Space, Nature: A One-Day Symposium
University of California, Berkeley
Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union
April 27, 2011
Welcome to Race, Space, & Nature: A One-Day Symposium! We have come together at UC Berkeley to look at how racial constructs are produced via interactions with one’s environment, be that urban, rural, or in between. In doing so, we’ll be opening up one of the important paths to seeing the ways in which race is created by people – not genetics. Symposium papers push the boundaries of discussions concerning people of color and the environment, as well as highlighting ways in which people of color experience oppression through the lens of inequitable environmental burdens. Centrally, one idea of this conference is to look at how people of color are also creating and co-producing environments that they inhabit. But it’s not just a conference “about people of color” – it’s a chance to think about race in a broad way and to dissect its origins by looking at how racial concepts emerge and are reinforced through processes like gang injunctions, agricultural practices, and international political decisions around issues like climate change. We look forward to an exciting day of fruitful dialogue. Thank you for joining us!
8:45- 9:15 am: Registration and Breakfast (Tilden Room)
9:15 am: Welcome and Introduction (Tilden Room)
9:30- 11:15 am: Session I (Tilden Room & Stephens Lounge)
11:30- 1:15 pm: Session II (Tilden Room & Stephens Lounge)
1:20-2:15 pm: Lunch (Tilden patio)
***Lunch is reserved for the first 40 registrants ***
2:15-2:30 pm: Coffee Break
2:30- 4:15: Session III (Tilden Room & Stephens Lounge)
4:30-5:45: Keynote Presentation (Tilden Room)
Schedule and Paper Abstracts:
8:45- 9:15 am: Registration and Breakfast (Tilden Room)
9:15 am: Welcome and Introduction (Tilden Room)
Jade Sasser, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy & Management, UC Berkeley
9:30- 11:15 am: Session I
Session I (Tilden Room):
Author: Lindsey Dillon, PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley
“Silencing Environmental Violence: The politics of toxic exposure in Bayview-Hunters Point”
Abstract: The violence of environmental racism in US cities is a process of making one group of people more vulnerable to death by exposing them to industrial waste and other environmental hazards. This process works through the production of different urban environments, more specifically, through the segmentation and racialization of urban space in the context of a political economy productive of an immense amount of toxic waste. This process structures relations between people and environment, what Foucault called milieu, in a way that increases the proximity of some people to toxic waste, increasing their risk of premature death. While the relationship between toxic waste and race in the US has been broadly studied and mapped, beginning with the seminal 1987 study, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States, and while environmental racism is formally recognized by the state (see Executive Order 12898), environmental justice activists are often confronted the near impossible burden of proving direct causality between hazardous substances and proximate bodies, a standard of proof that generally eludes them and contributes to the reproduction of environmental violence. This paper shows how toxic suffering is reproduced through a study of the politics of asbestos dust exposure in Bayview-Hunters Point, a neighborhood in southeast San Francisco. I argue that the causality required to prove harmful exposure is productive of a narrow conception of environmental violence, foreclosing or silencing claims to toxic suffering. Returning to Foucault’s idea of racism in Society Must Be Defended as a form of indirect murder that can work through the urban milieu helps us rethink what counts as environmental violence.
Author: Jennifer Garcia Peacock, PhD Candidate, American Culture, University of Michigan
“Sun Ma(i)d: Pollution and Agricultural Labor in California’s Central Valley.”
Abstract: On November 1, 1980, the City of Dinuba, California issued a public notice to “All Consumers of the City of Dinuba Water System,” announcing that, “with the advent of cool weather, it is no longer necessary for the City to use the four contaminated wells.” The closing of the four polluted wells came after months of pressure by local activists who were concerned that the California Department of Health Service (CDHS) was not doing enough to address the larger problem of ground water contamination in the Central Valley. Activists argued that the CDHS water rationing program implemented with the four remaining “clean” wells obscured a significant fact: Dinuba, “Raisinland, U.S.A.,” a predominately Chicana/o community had been drinking polluted water for over 25 years. In response to this letter sent to her mother’s home, Chicana artist Ester Hernandez sought to develop an image that “expressed the way I felt when I discovered that I had been working in poisoned fields, bathing and drinking poisoned water.” The resulting image, Sun Mad (1981), remains one of the most widely circulated images in Chicana/o art. As a response to the pesticide use in California’s Central Valley, Sun Mad serves as a radical re-inscription of the harvest nostalgia depicted on the Sun-Maid raisins box. By removing the image of the radiant maid and replacing her with a skeleton and the text “unnaturally grown with insecticides, miticides, herbacides, fungacides,” Hernandez calls dramatic attention to the severe human and environmental costs of commercial agricultural production.
In stark contrast to the harvest nostalgia found in the Sun Maid raisin image, I argue that Hernandez’s offers a compelling revisionist environmental history, showing the ways in which Chicana laborers actually experience raisin production. In a move similar to environmental labor historian Richard White, Hernandez shows how the Sun Maid box reinforces simulated labor as ideal environmental experience, as the Sun Maid image places a young, healthy woman at center, the very model of human and environmental health. I am interested in the ways that Hernandez reinscribes the image with a skeleton to counter this idealized image of commercial agriculture. Though a brief mapping of the physical and cultural geographies of the Central Valley, I argue that Hernandez’s screenprint emerges from a larger Chicana environmental critique during the late twentieth century, drawing from earlier Mexican and Mexican-American campaigns for environmental and social justice, including the United Farm Workers, Teatro Campesino, and numerous student movements. Utilizing the methodological tools found in environmental history and Chicana/o studies, I propose reading this image via an environmental lens, as I believe it presents exciting opportunities for understanding labor as an important site for environmental knowledge production.
 City of Dinuba, Public Notice. November 1, 1980. Stanford University Special Collections.
 Dinuba Sentinel, June 12, 1980, Stanford University Special Collections.
 El Mundo, undated, Stanford University Special Collections.
Author: Amie Breeze Harper, PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Davis
“Exploring Psychic Spaces and Racialized Embodiment: Exploring the Pleasures and Pain of the Vegan “Exotic””
Abstract: This lecture will add a broader dimension to understanding how the phenomenon of race-neutral and normative whiteness manifests; particularly amongst “post-racial” white-identified people who are involved in alternative food movements. It also examines the affects of “post-racial” discourses on activists of color who have embraced veganism. Using dialogues from the popular online blog Vegans of Color, this chapter will focus on the uses of the word “exotic” as well as how the embodied experience of being non-white in white-dominated spaces is connected to emotional distress and discomfort for a significant number Vegans of Color. The blog offers examples of vegans of colors’ collective discomfort with the manifestations of whiteness and white privilege.
Author: Julie Guthman, Associate Professor, Community Studies, UC Santa Cruz
“Doing Justice to Bodies? A Critical Analysis of the Food Justice Construct.”
Abstract: Drawing on the conceptual apparatus of environmental racism, food justice scholarship and activism assert an analogous connection between poor spatial access to good food (e.g., food deserts) and ill health, with obese and/or diseased bodies are taken as evidence of injustice. Without discounting the role of institutional and cultural racism in creating spaces with less amenity and more toxins, such accounts neglect that non-normative bodies can be a source of social injustice as well as a consequence of it. The conceptual problem is in part ontological. Food and health, while socially mediated, are products and mechanisms of natural processes. As bioactive substance, food enters into bodies and affects them biologically – as energy, disease, morphology. Race and justice, while materially significant, are products and mechanisms of social processes, with race a poor proxy for human variation. How can these objects of inquiry be brought together? The problem is confounded by the absence of a politically acceptable language to discuss questions of material bodily difference, yet, without such a language, white embodiment becomes the standard by which others are measured. In the interest of furthering a political ecology of the body, this paper will argue for an approach that recognizes the multiple socio-natural pathways by which different bodies are made vulnerable (or resilient) to environmental influences without resorting to genetic or cultural arguments. It will give specific focus to the etiology of obesity.
Discussant: Julie Guthman, Associate Professor, Community Studies, UC Santa Cruz
Session I (Stephens Lounge):
Author: Diana Negrin da Silva, PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley
“Deconstructing ‘El Huicholito’: Challenges to Racial Narratives in Urban Mexico”
Abstract: Guadalajara and Tepic are two vastly different Mexican cities whose histories are inextricably linked through pre-Hispanic civilizations and refashioned under colonial rule as the Spaniards vacillated between which of the two cities would seat the capital of Nueva Galicia. Relentless indigenous resistance in the region of Tepic eventually led the colonizers to establish their political headquarters in the Valley of Atemajac, now Guadalajara. Five hundred years later, Guadalajara has become a significant metropolitan region proud of its European heritage, its sizable bourgeoisie, and its fierce Catholicism. Conversely, Tepic is a city of a quarter million residents surrounded by sugar cane fields and endless caricatures of the native “Coritas” and “Huicholitos,” diminutive Hispanicized terms that refer to the Nayari and Wixárika indigenous peoples whose ancestors faced the troops of Nuño de Guzmán and pushed his armored men to the appeased region of Guadalajara.
Anchored in collaborative work with Wixárika university students and professionals, this paper explores the ways in which the racial imaginaries of these two cities have become sedimented and re-worked over time. How have the periods of conquest and colonial rule triggered particular racial narratives that exalt Guadalajara as a European transplant and Tepic as vibrant space of indigeneity? And in what ways do these narratives jive with the lived experiences of Wixárika residents of these two cities? In this sense, my paper looks at some ways in which Wixárika youth are foreclosed either by the European-Mestizo narrative of Guadalajara or by the folklorist celebrations of Tepic. Despite this foreclosure, Wixárika claims to the city have grown stronger as the organizational strength of indigenous associations grows and cross-cultural linkages that press for new forms of representation and governance are established.
Author: Bettina Stoetzer, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz
“Unhomely Ecologies: Tracking the “Unheimlich” at the Forest Edges of Berlin”
Abstract: This paper traces emerging national and racial geographies in a nature park in Brandenburg, at the Eastern edges of the city of Berlin. Founded during “unification” of East and West Germany in 1990, the March Oder Park has recently been reconfigured as an eco-tourist destination within a region struck by high unemployment rates and depopulation. At the same time, the park has also become the home for refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, who find themselves living in isolated part government-, part privately-run shelters on former military camps in East Germany’s forests. Tracking East German and immigrant conceptions of the region’s landscape, I attend to how experiences of exile, postcolonial displacement and postsocialist transition shape people’s attachments to place and “natural” environments. I argue that in order to understand emerging national and racial geographies at the edges of Berlin, requires tracing a sense of displacement and a feeling of what I call the “un-heimlich” (un-homely, uncanny). Following the “unheimlich” as an ethnographic object I first briefly revisit how histories – of the nation, of migration and shifting borders throughout Europe – have materialized in the landscape and how they have shaped the March Oder region and the park, as well as the refugee homes and former military camps more specifically. Second, I show how refugees use the image of the un-homely forest as a site of critique against racialized exclusions in Europe and as place from which to formulate oppositional identities.
Author: Logan Hennessy, Assistant Professor, Liberal Studies Program, San Francisco State University
“Re-placing Cultural Land: Villagization and the transformation of Amerindian environments under ‘Cooperative Socialism’ in Guyana.”
Abstract: The transition from colonialism to independence in Guyana in 1966 raised the question of how the new government would manage a diverse indigenous landscape and address the outstanding question of land rights. This paper draws on archival research, interviews and surveys, and two village case-studies to explore the development of Guyana’s interior during the phase of Cooperative Socialism between 1970-1986. Aiming to develop multiple resources in the indigenous occupied interior regions, but needing to neutralize potential ethnic resistance, the government pursued an ambitious agenda of resource development. It included agricultural cooperatives, a new regional structure of governance, a hydropower project, and a growth in small-scale mining. The central feature of the plan was a villagization scheme, in which Amerindian villages were given land titles. All of these policies avoided any recognition of tribal- or people-based associations or territories. Instead, the government created a spatial structure of property and politics that hinged on diffuse village-State relations, while severely repressing the capacity of ethnic mobilization. Consequently, the article demonstrates how a collective agenda of racial and resource consolidation under a socialist regime redefined or “re-placed” an indigenous cultural landscape. In the case of Guyana, this history has long-term implications. The legacies of socialism continue to marginalize Amerindian peoples in their struggles of ethnogenesis and territorial control, particularly as villagization remains the underlying structure in the post-socialist era of neoliberal resource extraction.
Author: Sydney L. Iaukea, Political Science, University of Hawaii, Manoa
“Land as the Vehicle: Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act (1921) and Defining Nativeness”
Abstract: The Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act (HHCA) of 1921 brought kanaka maoli (Hawaiian person) and ‘āina (the land–literally, that which feeds) into bureaucratic focus for the emerging American state. HHCA paired the native population with American racial definitions and land legislation was used as the vehicle. The rewriting of the national terrain was accomplished as native Hawaiians (those with more than 50% native blood) and part Hawaiians (those with less than 50% native blood) entered into legal discourse. HHCA dictated which lands went to which people and lands and people were strictly defined accordingly. The racialized and impoverished descriptions that HHCA perpetrated still fixes Hawaiian identity, still resonates deficit citizenry, and still designates land in capitalist and yeoman farmer terms tied to the United States.
Discussant: Beth Rose Middleton, Assistant Professor, Native American Studies, UC Davis
11:30- 1:15 pm: Session II
Session II (Tilden Room):
Author: Sharlene Mollett, Assistant Professor, Geography, Dartmouth College
“A ‘Modern’ Paradise: Race, Development and Displacement on the Honduran North Coast”
Abstract: On the Honduran north coast, indigenous and Afro-indigenous peoples struggle to maintain access to, and control of, ancestral territories. Ongoing struggles to secure formal property reveal a growing concern of impending displacement within indigenous and Afro-indigenous communities. These concerns, in part, owe to the Honduran state’s longstanding goal to “modernize” the north coast region and provide an attractive site for foreign investment in land and tourism. However, the state’s commitment to improve the country’s “development” profile, by opening coastal land ownership to foreigners, often weakens international and constitutional regulations that award indigenous and afro-indigenous peoples’ rights to full ownership and collective formalization of customary tenure arrangements. Building on the insights of a post-colonial political ecology, this paper interrogates the ways in which indigenous and Afro-indigenous land displacement is constitutive of state development imaginaries along the north coast. In this paper, I examine how national and international development policies problematize aspects of indigeneity and blackness posited as barriers to the region’s modernization, and as limits to the country’s economic profile. To illustrate, this paper draws from ethnographic participant observation in the Garifuna community of Tornabe, a fishing and farming village in the Tela Bay region of the department of Atlantida. Ethnographic research is supplemented by semi-structured interviews, historical data collection, agrarian and environmental policy, print media and discourse analysis. In the end, I argue that in Honduras, development geographies are inherently racialized whereby race and cultural meanings of race are imbued in environment-development practice.
Author: Christian Palmer, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz
“Tourism, Urban Development, and Inequality in Northeastern Brazil.”
Abstract: My research examines the transition from fishing and agriculture to tourism in Itacaré, Brazil. Since the paving of the road in 1998, tourism has exploded with a growing number upper- and middle-class and mostly white Brazilians moving to the area to enjoy the natural beauty and profit from the tourism boom. Because most of the tourists/newcomer’s who have settled in Itacaré are Brazilians, the difference between locals and newcomers is understood both in terms of regional identity as well as race. For example, a neighborhood of Afro-Brazilian fishermen is petitioning for recognition as a quilombo, descendants of an escaped slave community, a legal category which grants them land rights based on their place centered cultural history. My research examines how the intersection of place, race, and class based categories of difference are manifest in contests over public spaces. By examining how tourism development materially constructs inequality in the urban environment through the expansion of new neighborhoods, conflicts over public space, and changing architectural styles, I analyze how tourism is creating both opportunities and challenges for local residents. This analysis is particularly important in the context of tourism where the aesthetic creation of place is a form of economic production that attracts visitors and generates income.
Author: Cassie M. Hays, Postdoctoral Fellow, The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American & African Studies, University of Virginia
“Racialization of Nature on Safari.”
Abstract: Safari in Tanzania is a closed circuit of intertwined technologies that mediate and define the contemporary conjoining of nature and race. From the age of colonialism through the safari tourism of today, racial concepts and technological practices have sculpted the Tanzanian landscape and shaped nature’s boundaries. Parks were established in the colonial era to enclose conserved nature, depopulate a landscape, and grant colonialists primary resource access. Ideas of both external and internal nature are performed in this confining of the spatial. In visiting Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, tourists transgress a palimpsest of colonial, legal, physical, scientific, social and ideological thresholds. Wild nature is called into existence in imagined and real movement into and across park space. In Ngorongoro, safaris also visit Maasai cultural villages; tourists come to see Ngorongoro as an especially wild space because wildlife and apparently wild lives co-exist.
Technologies like the park mediate perceptions and representations of nature and native in transit across the landscape, so that racialized ‘others’ come to be viewed as inextricably harnessed to their natural surroundings. Scholarly studies of colonial science and policy show that race and racial difference are seen through the lens of wild nature: race is naturalized. In this study of Tanzanian safari, I show that landscape becomes imbued with racial significance: nature is racialized. Ultimately, I am interested in the conceptual harnessing of nature(s) with race that occurs through the technologically-mediated experience of people and place in movement on safari across the Tanzanian landscape.
Author: Andrew Curley, Ph.D. Student, Development Sociology, Cornell University
“Resistance through Neoliberalism: The Use of Sustainable Alternative Development Initiatives to Challenge Colonial Policies.”
Abstract: During this time of global climate change American Indian peoples continue to struggle over questions of development and environmental preservation. Estimated at 30% of total U.S. reserves, contestation over the extraction of the raw coal found within tribal reservations has increased—altering how debates about “development” are framed across tribal communities. Since the early 2000s, environmental justice organizations on the Navajo Nation have changed how they come to challenge resource extraction—moving from direct forms of opposition (i.e., protests and lawsuits) to an approach that proposes “alternative” economic development initiatives instead. These proposals are highly innovative, culturally informed, but paradoxically affected by certain forms of neoliberalism.
Although these initiatives contain neoliberal assumptions, a historic reading of Navajo communities gives us a better appreciation as to why this is the case. In this paper I argue that theories of neoliberalism would benefit from an improved accounting of the colonial nature of many welfare states. This paper examines the context of economic development and natural resource policy on the Navajo Nation as it relates to questions of welfarism and neoliberlism.
With an emphasis on the longue durée, I make the case that we can read resistance against colonialism within environmentally sustainable alternative development proposals otherwise seen as neoliberal in nature. Environmental justice groups resist a racialized colonial welfare state through the advancement of alternative development initiatives that are “sustainable” in nature but replete with basic tenets of neoliberal thought.
Discussant: Nancy Peluso, Professor, Environmental Science Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
Session II (Stephens Lounge):
Author: Barbara Boswell, Lecturer, Women & Gender Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
“Black Women Novelists Rewriting the Apartheid South African Nation-Space: Miriam Tlali’s ‘Muriel at Metropolitan’ and Lauretta Ngcobo’s ‘And They Didn’t Die’ ”
Abstract: This paper considers the ways in which two Black South African women writers – Miriam Tlali and Lauretta Ngcobo – conceptualized of and reimagined the concept of “the nation” and national space in their novels. Through an examination of the spatial politics in Tlali’s _Muriel at Metropolitan_ (1979) and Ngcobo’s _And They Didn’t Die_ (1989), it argues that Black women writing fiction during the height of apartheid wrote as an act of resistance against a system which deliberately denied them creative agency, and what Mamphela Ramphele calls “intellectual space” (Ramphele 1993). In doing so, they carved out intellectual space that enabled them to critique dominant ideologies of Afrikaner nationalism and white supremacy, while imagining and writing alternatives to a nation in which their relationships were primarily ones of disavowal and dispossession. Yet they resisted this dispossession through writing which critically interrogated the spatial logic of apartheid. Using critical Black geography (McKittrick and Woods 2007) as a framework, I analyze the novels of these pioneering Black women writers, arguing that their deployment of space in their respective works articulates new modes of writing the South African nation into being. Their work thus produces an important counter-narrative to the dominant ideology of apartheid, and the apartheid state’s justification of its policy that it assured “separate but equal” development of the separate races.
Author: Hsuan Hsu, Associate Professor, English, UC Davis
“Magical Naturalism: Aesthetics, Risk, and Environmental Justice”
Abstract: A living disembodied head participates in a protest; an amphibious monster emerges from the Han River; toxic dumping makes sushi diners glow neon green… This paper considers a range of narratives that draw on elements of fantasy and catastrophic spectacle to address one of the most significant problems faced by environmental justice activists: the time-delayed, often invisible, subjective nature of environmental risks. In efforts translate the risk perceptions of vulnerable groups to those who are geographically or socio-economically more distanced from risk, narratives such as Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, Cherrie Moraga’s Heroes and Saints, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, Shu Lea Chang’s Fresh Kill, and Robert Barclay’s Melal distort reality, condense time, concentrate risks, and exhibit “monsters.” By framing these texts as an emergent environmental justice genre, I argue that aesthetic forms can contribute to environmental justice politics by mediating between subjective risk perceptions and highlighting–through unlikely departures from empirical data–the ways in which toxic environments from McFarland to the Marshall Islands affect everyday experiences and social relations.
Author: Uli Linke, Professor, Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Racializing Cities, Naturalizing Space: The Global Appeal of Iconic Representations of Slum Life”
Abstract: A globalized world, marked by reform and openness, unsettles old identities and unlocks new imaginaries. From such a perspective, the global human condition comes into view through the possibilities and signs of motion. In this paper, I explore how iconic representations of slum life are produced for transnational consumption. My focus is on the manner in which the logics of spectacle and entertainment have come to organize images of urban poverty. Propelled by variable capitalist interests, the iconicity of ‘the shantytown’ or ‘ghetto’ is circulated as a popular commodity form by recourse to signifiers of nature, race, and space. Competing representations of urban poverty are manufactured for public attention by aesthetic, symbolic, and affective means, ranging from the romance of despair or humanitarian compassion to a nostalgic longing for premodern signs of a deprived but simpler life. The use of slums as global entertainment spectacle requires that core images be detached from social life to produce a repertoire of free floating emblems and signs that can be variously deployed, assembled, and discarded, depending on shifting cultural desires in a capitalist commodity market. My research suggests that a limited register of signs is recycled by artists, photographers, urban critics, and private entrepreneurs, who ventured to build faux-shantytowns as theme parks in global cities such as Zurich, London, and Berlin. The ‘bare life’ of these unintended cities is branded for consumer publics that can afford to refashion their social identities by physical or symbolic contact with the portable icons of poverty.
Author: Javier Arbona, PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley
“After the Blast: Reclaiming the Memory of Port Chicago”
Abstract: My dissertation examines the contentious remembrance of the Port Chicago explosion on July 17, 1944, and the subsequent survivors’ revolt near Mare Island. At the outbreak of World War II, the Navy built an ammunition depot next to the small town of Port Chicago on the outskirts of San Francisco. It was there that two ships blew-up, killing 320, two-thirds of whom were African American personnel ordered to load munitions under a segregated Navy. The site of the detonation was recently protected as the 392nd national park in the US. After the blast, some of the African American survivors who refused to return to load bombs were swiftly convicted of a mutiny. Altogether, these events are often remembered as the reason for the desegregation of the armed forces. Over the last two decades, several groups have organized around what they claim as the memory of Port Chicago, but sometimes in ways that contradict each other.
For this presentation, I will concentrate on the landscape in and around Mare Island, where African American survivors of the blast were taken, and where their work stoppage took place. Nowadays, the grassroots Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve has professed to protect wildlife and open space, while also utilizing these lands in order to sometimes narrate versions of the Port Chicago resistance that challenge the National Park Service storyline by underscoring the combined labor and race dimensions of the work stoppage. Port Chicago still constitutes an under-studied, yet highly contested, episode in a larger Bay Area social consciousness.
Discussant: Diana Pei Wu, Assistant Professor, Liberal Studies, Antioch University, Los Angeles
1:20-2:15 pm: Lunch (Tilden patio)
2:15-2:30 pm: Break
2:30- 4:15: Session III
Session III (Tilden Room):
Author: Mike King, PhD. Candidate, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz
“Gang Injunctions, Contested Priorities, and the Future of Democracy in Oakland”
Abstract: Gang injunctions are an increasingly widespread policing tool which has spread to Oakland in recent years, amidst growing community opposition. Oakland’ s (recently-departed) city attorney, the Oakland police, and some community groups see gang injunctions as an essential tool in combating gangs and gang violence. For other members of the community, activists, and civil rights attorneys, gang injunctions raise serious concerns about racial profiling and the erosion of constitutional rights, as well as the efficacy of injunctions as an anti-crime tool, and the overarching and persistent strategy of attempting to solve social problems through increased policing. I will analyze the arguments of the city attorney’s office, who is implementing the injunctions, as well as the movement opposing them. The debate around the injunctions is about the role of gangs as well as the role of the police in the city, and is currently expanding into a deeper discussion about budgetary priorities, racial and economic inequality, gentrification, and community-led alternatives to address poverty and crime. The debate around gang injunctions is at the forefront of redefining the public sphere and what “ democracy” will look like in the city of Oakland.
Author: Jesus Hernandez, PhD Candidate, Sociology, UC Davis
“Race, Market Constraints and the Housing Crisis: A Problem of Embeddedness”
Abstract: Most explanations for the current subprime loan crisis fail to acknowledge the abnormally high concentration of unsustainable mortgage products in predominantly nonwhite neighborhoods. This research explores the historical connection between race and value that led to the creation of racially segregated space – the essential precondition necessary for the spatial concentration of subprime loans to take place in Latino and black neighborhoods. Using a case study of Sacramento, California, I place the housing crisis within the historical context of housing discrimination in the U.S. to show how important market preconditions were manipulated through the use of racial categories. The sorting of individuals based upon racialized selection criteria secured market privilege and position for selected groups while encouraging group closure. I argue that the resulting long-term closure of opportunity in Sacramento made segregated neighborhoods highly vulnerable to subprime lending. By treating markets as socially produced organization rather than organic, this research calls attention to the presence of rules for market conduct, the use of race in the valuation of property, and most important, the use of race to determine access to mortgage credit. In doing so, I extend Granovetter’s claim that economic action remains embedded in social relations to also include race relations. The housing crisis in Sacramento, therefore, can be seen as a problem of embeddedness.
Author: Amy Lee, PhD Candidate, English, UC Berkeley
“Narrating the Nation: Gentrification and Urban Critique in the Lower East Side and Chinatown”
Abstract: This paper examines liberal discourses of anti-gentrification and historical preservation that surround discussions of the future of the Lower East Side (NYC), an area celebrated for its bohemian lifestyle, working class and immigrant cultures, and creativity. In reproducing a nostalgia for the Lower East Side’s historical past, these narratives ironically contribute to the urban aesthetics of gentrification, a form of global cosmopolitanism that homogenizes the urban landscape. Manhattan’s Chinatown, which sits squarely within the Lower East Side, has been largely elided from the historical memory of the area, which is dominated not only by the story of European immigration but also by the larger genealogy of the American revolution and the founding of the US. In this paper, I explore the stakes of a transatlantic narrative in the future development of the Lower East Side and New York as global urban landscape. I then query how a transpacific-inflected imaginary alters this landscape and contends with received narratives of American immigration, culture, and urban life as exemplified by the Lower East Side. Using the case studies of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, I compare how the development of cultural studies in a transpacific versus transatlantic context contributes to different forms of national and urban critique. I examine how these different critical genealogies lead to larger questions of national identity and the place of global formations in the production of this identity.
Author: Laura Martin, PhD Candidate, History, UC Santa Cruz
“The War Over the ‘War on Poverty’: Civil Rights and Black Power in 1960s San Francisco”
Abstract: In San Francisco in the 1960s a significant part of the civil rights movement was shifting its focus toward the material conditions of urban African American life, targeting issues like poverty, segregation, and unemployment. When Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty came to the city in 1964 the movement was already sharply divided between an older generation of middle-class African American leaders and an emerging group of young militants interested in using civil disobedience tactics. The new anti-poverty program became a site of collaboration and conflict as these two tendencies fought for control of federal and city resources. Though they were largely ambivalent about the government’s commitment to ending African American poverty, both tendencies sought to transform the federal program into a base for building black political power. I trace the dynamics of the movement’s engagement with the state as its internal tensions grew. I also show how the movement’s framework was finally split apart entirely by the sudden appearance of the Black Panther Party in 1966, a group that presented an entirely new paradigm for black struggle. I suggest that the political vision of the BPP was shaped in part by the failures of the War on Poverty and of the civil rights movement with which it became entwined.
Discussant: Rachel Brahinsky, Ph.D Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley
Session III (Stephens Lounge):
Author: Matthew Roth, Ph.D. Candidate, History, Rutgers University
“Confederate Soybeans and the New South”
Abstract: Beginning in the early 1950s, plant breeders at the U.S. Regional Soybean Laboratory in Stoneville, Mississippi, developed a series of new soybean varieties that they named after Confederate generals. ‘Jackson’ was introduced in 1953, ‘Lee’ in 1954. Over the next two decades, ‘Hood,’ ‘Hill,’ ‘Bragg,’ ‘Hardee,’ ‘Davis,’ ‘Semmes,’ ‘Ransom,’ ‘York,’ ‘Pickett,’ and ‘Forrest’ followed; a private seed company picked up the trend with their ‘Hampton’ and ‘Stuart’ varieties. In the map of Best Adapted Varieties published each year by Soybean Digest, the generals gradually swept over the old Confederacy, with minor incursions along the Missouri border. (The ‘Grant’ variety, meanwhile, was hunkered down in a corner of the Dakotas.) USDA plant breeders did not elaborate on why they chose these names, but the longstanding practice reveals some fundamental transformations of Southern agriculture. The demand for new varieties signaled a shift from cotton to soybean, and from soybean planted as forage to soybean planted as an oilseed – with an eye to the growing export market for vegetable oil, shipped primarily through New Orleans. Soybeans, harvested by combine, were a modernizing crop, reducing the need for sharecropping. And with this reduced need, as well as the capital required to plant a successful soybean crop, African Americans were gradually forced out of farming. In the same decades that the Civil Rights movement demanded equality in urban spaces, the USDA helped create the New South by appealing to the resurgent Confederate identity of an increasingly white farm population.
Author: Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley
Knowing “Good Food”: Immigrant Knowledge and the Racial Politics of Farmworker Food Insecurity
Abstract: Many immigrant farmworkers arrive in the United States after farming
their own land in Mexico, where they have developed agricultural and
nutritional knowledge and skills. When they leave their hometowns to
work in others’ fields, often first in Northern Mexico, and then
eventually, in the United States, they are stripped of their ability
to grow food for themselves, as they have little access to land and
resources for substance agriculture. Although farmworkers in
California labor in some of the most productive agricultural regions
in the world, they are largely food insecure.
Food assistance providers in the United States often treat
farmworkers’ lack of access to healthy food as a lack of knowledge
about healthy eating. In contrast to food banks and low-income
nutrition programs, home and community gardens provide spaces for
retaining and highlighting agricultural, cultural, and dietary
practices and knowledge, rather than proceeding with the assumption
that people of color and those with low incomes don’t know what “good”
food is. In this paper I explore the ways in which farmworkers, who
for the most part come from a culture deeply rooted in food and
agricultural practices, cope with food insecurity by utilizing their
embodied agricultural knowledge and food practices. I investigate the
linkages between their place in the food system as both producers and
consumers, as they are simultaneously exploited for their labor, and
creating coping strategies using what they know about food and
agriculture. Ultimately, this case study shows that healthy eating,
rather than being a matter of consumers making healthy “choices,” as
is often promoted by healthy eating proponents and food activists, is
in reality a matter of class, race, and food access.
Author: Emily McKee, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan
“Crops and Land Claims: Demarcating Place and People Through Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Planting”
Abstract: In this talk, I will examine the political ecology of planting as a common tool within land conflicts of the Negev region in Israel. In a context of disputed land ownership, some Bedouin Arab residents plant crops in defiance of governmental policy, knowing these crops may be destroyed by enforcers of governmental land-use regulations. In addition to those residents who live and farm in unauthorized places discreetly because they feel they have no choice, these residents engage in “insurgent planting.” Their manner of planting, crops chosen, and the publicity surrounding their sewing and harvesting are meant to make moral and political statements. They use planting to assert the importance of land ties for Bedouin Arabs’ subsistence, collective identity, and individual freedom.
Why do residents invest resources in crops they are unlikely to harvest? Why, if these actions are political statements, do participants choose farming to send their message, and how does this choice relate to dominant images of Bedouins as shepherds and the historical importance of agriculture for Israeli nation-building? I address these questions through ethnographic and historical examination of insurgent and counterinsurgent planting. I suggest that dominant environmental discourses in Israel, and the claims-making practices they enable, draw divisions between Bedouin Arabs and Jews, as well as between Bedouin and Jewish lands. I contend that these plantings demonstrate both the power of such discourses to structure land claims along ethnic lines and the creative potential of participants to challenge these discourses by adding new connotations.
Author: Lindsay Naylor, PhD Student, Geography, University of Oregon
“Constructing Autonomy through the Colonial Difference: Zapatista-Aligned Communities and the Articulation of Food Sovereignty”
Abstract: In the past decade the Tzotzil speaking, Zapatista-aligned communities of Chiapas, Mexico, have constructed new forms of identity, autonomy and food production through practices that diverge from the dominant neoliberal model. Specifically, these communities have reorganized food production according to agroecological principles, a process that is closely linked to a broader politics of resisting colonial racialization that has subjugated them politically, economically, and culturally for over five centuries. Utilizing the concept of the coloniality of power with its emphasis on the structures and institutions of power that maintain racialized hegemony in the post-conquest era, this paper analyzes the community-scale struggles for food sovereignty and autonomy. Although the Zapatista agenda has been explored by a range of scholars, few have looked at the politics of race in the highlands of Chiapas through the lens of food production and food sovereignty. Drawing on conversations with Zapatista agroecology promoters during fieldwork in 2010, this paper expands on these more theoretical observations to discuss how food practices that have been enacted in resistance communities both ameliorate inequities associated with unequal access to resources and shape new narratives of indigenous autonomy. This research has implications not just for understanding what is going on in Chiapas; it shows the importance of incorporating the environmental strategies of marginalized communities into our conceptions of the coloniality of power.
Discussant: Allison Alkon, Assistant Professor, University of the Pacific
4:30-5:45: Tilden Room
Keynote Presentation: A Dialogue with Carolyn Finney & Jake Kosek