“Not stadiums but real investment where people live”: Theorizing mobilities as organized abandonment in Milwaukee

Authors: Yui Hashimoto*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: racial capitalism, organized abandonment, segregation,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Milwaukee is well known as one of the most segregated and impoverished cities in the United States. These are oft-repeated facts, and yet public discourse seems unchanged on how to ‘fix’ a decades-old problem. The City of Milwaukee and its boosters continue to offer up solutions, such as bringing back manufacturing and ‘workforce development’ programs, that are inadequate in redressing decades of organized abandonment. Gilmore (2008) theorizes organized abandonment as a historically contingent process of disinvestment and state intervention that iteratively exacerbates itself and constantly changes. Milwaukee has a long lineage of “fixes” that have paved the way for increasingly destructive solutions to previous rounds of abandonment. These contemporary solutions are not only inadequate because of their lack of scope and long term impact, but because they rely on historically produced spatialities. Spatialities such as segregation, suburbanization, and the urban-rural divide remain unnamed in the strategies and yet shape the ways these “fixes” supposedly help poor communities of color. In this paper, I use examples from Milwaukee’s development strategy to show how discursive and material reconfiguring mobilities of poor communities of color in these ‘solutions’ are a fundamental part of organized abandonment. In the case of Milwaukee, historic patterns of segregation and poverty continue to confine workers of color to living in specific neighborhoods even as the spatialities of work are constantly reconfigured through a simultaneous state retrenchment of public goods and state intervention for capital accumulation and punishment.

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