A Place Called Home: Land, Rights, and Resistance in the US South

Authors: Sarah Franzen*,
Topics: Social Geography, Ethnicity and Race, United States
Keywords: Property, Race, Land Rights, Black Geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

For African American landowners in the rural South, dispossession has operated not only through capitalist tools but also a plantation logic that has structured the political and economic systems that govern forms of ownership and access to land. Over the past century, African Americans have lost over 12 million acres of land. The visible forms of resistance to ongoing dispossession faced by African American landholders have been through legal and political avenues that challenge the racism within the system of property, not the system of property itself. However, alongside more noted forms of resistance, landowners and rural residents challenge the very concept of property and create another form of resistance through daily practices that counter the logic that supports dispossession in the first place.

Drawing on in-depth ethnographic research, this paper showcases how African Americans in the rural southeastern US utilize place-making practices to resist the plantation logic that denies their claims to land and place. In the face of this political apparatus, African Americans make claims to places as homelands, family land, and ancestral land. They support these claims through maintaining family and community histories, building independent economic success on small acres of farm land, and through continuing a tradition of farming practices that constitute a rural culture and and identity unique to them. These activities interact with efforts towards maintaining land ownership, but at the same time they also challenge the dominant system of property that is built on an anti-black and extractive logic.

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