Land justice in the city

Type: Paper
Theme: Black Geographies
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Napoleon D2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Organizers: Sara Safransky, Tessa Eidelman
Chairs: Tessa Eidelman


In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of social movements in the United States from the American Indian Movement to Black power activists and Puerto Rican radicals -- saw land as the material basis for the struggle for collective self-determination. Today, as displacement in American cities intensifies, the land question is once again gaining urgency. The 2008 foreclosures crisis continues to reverberate in home losses, widening wealth gaps, and in the revival of “contract for deed” lending aimed at people who don’t qualify for mortgages, particularly Black and Latino homebuyers. At the same time, the reversal of white flight, return of upwardly mobile residents, and financialization of housing has caused a revaluation of land in urban centers. While the challenges facing urban poor and working-class residents, particularly people of color, are formidable, there is also a resurgence of activism nationwide around urban land. This activism joins significant land related activism taking place in rural and urban areas across the world. In the U.S., resistance takes the form of anti-eviction defenses, land reclamations, campaigns to organize tenant unions and increase renter power, and transnational alliances. For example, in 2006, the organization Take Back the Land established Umoja Village, a shantytown on public land in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where affordable housing was destroyed for a new condo development (Rameau 2008). In 2007, Right to the City Alliance began work on gentrification and the displacement of low-income people, people of color, and marginalized LGBTQ communities from neighborhoods, and now have almost fifty member organizations across the country (RTCA 2017). In 2009, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in South Africa inspired the founding of the Anti-Eviction Campaign affiliates in Chicago and Los Angeles, which defend families facing eviction and take over vacant, bank-owned homes for homeless families (CAEC 2009). Most recently, on Juneteenth 2017, African-American Independence Day, the BlackOut Collective and Movement Generation launched the Land and Liberation Initiative, calling for reclamation and arguing that “[l]and is essential in the fight for self-determination and liberation for Black folks” (BLLI 2017).

The crises of affordability and accompanying land rights activism present a political and ethical imperative to revisit the urban land question in the United States. While land questions have been the subject of geographic scholarship in the global South where rural social movements from the Landless Workers Movement (Brazil) to the Landless People’s Movement (South Africa) have demanded agrarian and land reforms for decades, they have received less attention in global North cities. Yet the racial and cultural politics of land and property in the United States are, like South Africa or Brazil, haunted by colonial conquest, historical racialized property dispossession, and a state that has perpetuated white property privilege. This session features theoretically rich and empirically grounded papers that contribute to building a more robust land justice research agenda. Panelists draw on indigenous studies, decolonial studies, critical race studies, diaspora studies, feminist theory, queer theory, or other critical approaches to the analysis of land related struggles. The panel seeks to engage analyses of urban land governance policies and their stakes for inequality and racial segregation in the U.S. city; the visions, structure of organization, and narrative claims of different groups organizing to “take back” land; historical analyses of social movements fighting for land justice in urban and rural contexts; examinations of past and present legal efforts such as land restitution, redistribution, reform, or reparations aimed at securing land rights or financial compensation as a way to redress historical violence and past harms; examples of strategic research alliances within and beyond the academy that uplift and support movements for land justice; and theoretical or conceptual pieces concerned with deepening understandings of what land justice means in the urban context and/or what is at stake in these struggles.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Tessa Eidelman*, Vanderbilt University, Sara E Safransky, Vanderbilt University, Introduction to Land Justice in the City 10 8:00 AM
Presenter Elsa Noterman*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Taking back 'vacant' land 18 8:10 AM
Presenter Danielle Rivera*, University of Colorado, Boulder, Chávez, Huerta, and the Fight for Land in U.S./Mexico Colonias 18 8:28 AM
Presenter Rachael Baker*, York University, Carrying on: Mothering Land Justice 18 8:46 AM
Presenter Daniela Aiello*, University of Georgia, Reformulating an urban theory of ongoing dispossession: Lessons from evictions in Atlanta and Vancouver 18 9:04 AM
Discussant Malini Ranganathan American University 18 9:22 AM

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