"Indispensable Presence": Racial Banishment in the Contemporary Metropolis

Authors: Ananya Roy*, University of California, Los Angeles
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Dispossession, Displacement, Black Geographies, Race, Urban
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In a reflection on his art, including recent retrospectives hosted at some of the leading museums in the United States, Kerry James Marshall notes that, through his depictions of black life, he seeks to create “a certain kind of an indispensable presence.” Attentive to the technologies of spatial exclusion and indeed even necropolitics, Marshall’s paintings nevertheless explode with an exuberance of urbanity and domesticity. In this talk, I use Marshall’s art as a methodology to understand indispensable presence. Drawing on research conducted by scholars and social movements in cities such as Los Angeles, I delineate processes of racial banishment, including residential re-segregation, nuisance evictions, and the disproportionate policing of the houseless. In doing so, I argue that the standard conceptual repertoire of urban studies is ill-equipped to study such processes. In particular, influential explanations that invoke neoliberalization often miss the long histories of dispossession and disposability that are being remade in the contemporary metropolis. Put another way, I make the case for how disciplines such as geography and urban planning must contend with their legacies of racial liberalism and seek to create a different type of indispensable presence for the race question. What is at stake is not only a more robust analysis of urban transformations but also attention to the various forms of exuberant mobilization and scholarship that are challenging racial banishment.

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