Authors: April L. Graham*, Mount Holyoke College
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Chicago, Black Geographies, Geomusicology, House music, House culture
Session Type: Paper
This paper uncovers how “geography happens to Black people” and the ways Black people “happen” to geography. According to Katherine McKittrick, the Black body has been positioned historically as “ungeographic” as well as “…their (often unacknowledged) status as geographic beings who have a stake in the production of space (McKittrick pg. 10, pg. 14).” Black people assert their positionality as spatial architects; not just in response to the ways geography has been used against them, but also in the production of counter-geographies that reflect their “a-where-ness” as the geographic other (Osborne, 2001). As well, Black people exist as agents in the construction of Black geographies and the spatial diffusion of Blackness, facilitating how Black culture spreads over various spatial and temporal scales. I examine the spatial paradox of the Black body through the Black post-civil rights generation in Chicago who participated in house music culture between 1976-1993. I focus on the sociospatial processes that altered the spatialities of Chicago for the Black house community and their responses to these shifts. Through spatial engineering, including place-branding and re-purposing abandoned spaces, the Black house community constructed protected spaces such as the dance floor — “Spaces that were made for everyone, but belong to us” (Miss Priss,dancer). I therefore argue that these tribunal spaces became kaleidoscopes, reflecting the community’s complexities while the Black dancing body spatialized the intersectional identities of a new generation of Black Chicagoans. As sociospatial agents, the Black house community shaped place for modernized Black spatialities of Chicago to subsist.