A Geography of Violence and Safety: Black Youth, Spatial & Racial Logics
My dissertation project is a critical geography interrogating the intersections of violence, race, and spatiality in Oakland, California. In particular, I hope to complicate understandings of how Black youth experience violence, and in the process, highlight the sense-making ‘cartographies’ they deploy when navigating material, symbolic, and social geographies. While urban violence has been heavily studied, it has largely been through the purview of interpersonal violence. This conceptualization of violence, while critically important, lacks the theoretical depth to capture the varied ways quotidian violence often structures Black life in the inner city, including young people’s social ecological realities across neighborhoods and schools.
This study then attempts to highlight the void in traditional conversations about “urban violence” by inserting Black youths’ qualitative experiences within them, and in the process, amplify questions of sense- and space-making. Methodologically, cartography offers a window into how Black youth physically navigate space, but more significantly, the attendant perceptions and meanings they have regarding ‘place,’ including how race and violence operate socio-spatially. In a rapidly gentrifying landscape these situated knowledges take on added significance. Insomuch, the project signals the worlds of Black youth as spaces to deepen theorization about racialized violence and anti-Blackness, yet the possibility for counter-mapping, spatial transgression, and points of departure for Black futurity. These are the tensions, contradictions, and possibilities of Black youth space in Oakland.