Encountering Richmond: Pedagogy and Scale

Authors: Sherine Ebadi*, UC Berkeley
Topics: Geographic Thought
Keywords: local knowledges, territoriality, coloniality, race, empire, oil, scale
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


North Richmond, California is a small unincorporated neighborhood directly abutting the Chevron Richmond Oil Refinery located about ten miles northeast of San Francisco. The 1.5 square mile neighborhood, is an historically African-American community, which has recently undergone widespread gentrification as the pressures of the Bay Area housing market push people east into the suburbs. Recent debates abound between local business interests and the municipality regarding North Richmond’s annexation into the incorporated town of Richmond, a move that could hasten private investment and development. In 2014, the Richmond City Council unanimously approved the Chevron Refinery Modernization Project, which paves the way for $1 billion of retrofitting. The project will allow the facility to process heavier and sour crudes, which carry with them increased risks for environmental and health hazards. This paper looks to Richmond as a complex site of knowledge production, reframing Richmond as a multiscalar geographical site that nevertheless chafes against predominant categories of scale. Such a reframing can extend from nested pedagogies arising in and through Richmond, including local knowledges that contest our typical frameworks for understanding categories such as territoriality, citizenship, place, empire, and coloniality. The particularities of Richmond—read with relation to scientific and imperial spatial production—ruptures typical treatments of global processes as universal analytic categories. Furthermore, the geographical and historical conjuncture we call Richmond complicates easy understandings of the US as a cohesive territorial unit. The paper highlights pedagogical formations specific to community activists and local political actors gained through ethnographic fieldwork.

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