Unfettering the Frame: The Geographic Matter of Black Life, Image and Form in Oakland, California

Authors: Kaily Heitz*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Black Geographies, visual culture, gentrification,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Development in Oakland, California, is marked by the use of Black visuality while remaining largely unaccountable to Black communities being displaced; yet directly counteracting this kind of erasure often requires utilizing the same violent visual economies. This paper analyzes the paradoxical ambiguity between the visual, racialized identity and lived experience of spatial production by drawing on ethnographic interviews and the photographic works of artist and entrepreneur, Sunflower Love. I suggest that her photos exemplify a “Black geographic image,” through which two-dimensional images of Black Oakland are rebuked in favor of a trialectic Black spatial experience. Drawing on Black feminist geographies, I situate this extra-visual signification as a kind of “emancipatory framing” that unsettles hegemonic racializing images while working within their strictures. The paper concludes by arguing that these visual negotiations are integral to ongoing contestations over the identity of, and therefore spatio-political claims to, Oakland as a Black city.

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