The Tale of Two Cities: Tracing flows of labour and capital in the ‘reprivatization’ of social reproduction in Milwaukee

Authors: Yui Hashimoto*, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Racial capitalism, economic development, Milwaukee
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Milwaukee is undergoing what some have called a Renaissance. Downtown Milwaukee seems to be littered with construction sites ranging from the new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks to the new condominium development, the Couture, along Lake Michigan. The City of Milwaukee and its boosters continues to prioritize investment in amenities for the consumption and lifestyle demands of tourists and the creative class. However, the concentration of development Downtown belies the disinvestment in public services, such as public education, necessary for social reproduction of deeply racially segregated and impoverished communities living outside of Downtown. I argue that this two-track practice of economic development follows the historic policies of white flight and segregation to reproduce socio-spatial patterns of racialization and poverty. Moreover, these patterns then reinforce for whom and where social reproduction is meant to take place. In this paper, I specifically trace the flows of labour and capital within the Milwaukee metropolitan area to examine the spatialities of investment and disinvestment through financial tools such as tax incremental financing and business improvement districts. I draw on longstanding feminist political economic theorizing about economic restructuring and the ‘reprivatization’ of social reproduction to show that financialization has led to an intensification of socially reproductive work downloaded onto individuals. Tracing these flows sheds light on how global patterns of economic restructuring intersect with local politics of race, gender, class, and social reproduction.

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