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Unsettling Black Los Angeles: A Conversation between Black and Indigenous Studies

Authors: Pamela Stephens*, UCLA
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: Black geographies, indigenous studies, Los Angeles, urban planning, settler colonialism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Increasingly, scholars are attending to the intersections between Black and indigenous studies. Within geography, both fields implore us to consider alternative imaginaries for the production of space and making of place, while still working through legacies of violent dispossession and banishment. This paper explores the ways in which the connectivities and disjunctures between Black geographies and indigenous studies literatures can be instructive in understanding Black life in cities. Working through contemporary Black struggles for space in Los Angeles – particularly around issues of gentrification and displacement in South Central – I consider how the displacement and dispossession of Black communities is a continuity of indigenous removal and the larger project of settler colonialism. As such, I trouble narratives around Black claims to space undergirded by settler colonialist conceptions of land ownership. I suggest that thinking through Black and indigenous studies together can help Black communities develop new language and imaginations around relationships to land, ultimately considering how we can best articulate visions of Black futurity in the city, while still holding ourselves accountable to the largest urban indigenous population in the nation.

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