Pragmatic Racialization and Urban Development

Authors: Christopher Mele*, University at Buffalo
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: racialization, urban development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper provides a framework for a theorization of race and space which focuses on the ideological implications of racial discourses for urban development – that race continues to operate as a resource-defining force outside and beyond legal frameworks that govern policy and practices, such as bank lending and zoning. This conception of racialization is less categorical and more process-oriented and sees race as more ideological, discursive and symbolic yet, importantly, with material consequences, as a relational construct between those who hold and wield power and those who don’t. The symbolic and discursive aspects of racialization, in this framework, are not a simple appendage to urban development practices; they shape the production of its core processes and practices. In a number of empirical examples from Washington, DC, Chicago and medium-sized 'decline belt' cities such as Chester, PA, the construct, race, is leveraged by stakeholders, including realtors, developers, city officials, and the media in support of a narrow vision of urban development. Racialization, or the leveraging of race or racial constructs, is a deliberate practice used or deployed by actors as a means to organize and legitimize the political economy of urban development.

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