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Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago

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Over 277,000 African Americans migrated to Chicago between 1900 and 1940, an influx unsurpassed in any other northern city. From the start, carceral powers literally and figuratively created a prison-like environment to contain these African Americans within the so-called Black Belt on the city's South Side. A geographic study of race and gender, Spatializing Blackness casts light upon the ubiquitous--and ordinary--ways carceral power functions in places where African Americans live. Moving from the kitchenette to the prison cell, and mining forgotten facts from sources as diverse as maps and memoirs, Rashad Shabazz explores the myriad architectures of confinement, policing, surveillance, urban planning, and incarceration. In particular, he investigates how the ongoing carceral effort oriented and imbued black male bodies and gender performance from the Progressive Era to the present. The result is an essential interdisciplinary study that highlights the racialization of space, the role of containment in subordinating African Americans, the politics of mobility under conditions of alleged freedom, and the ways black men cope with--and resist--spacial containment. A timely response to the massive upswing in carceral forms within society, Spatializing Blackness examines how these mechanisms came to exist, why society aimed them against African Americans, and the consequences for black communities and black masculinity both historically and today.

184 pages, Paperback

First published August 30, 2015

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About the author

Rashad Shabazz

2 books8 followers
Rashad Shabazz is an associate professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy from Minnesota State University-Mankato, a master’s degree from the Department of Justice & Social Inquiry at Arizona State University, and a doctorate in the History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews127 followers
July 3, 2016
Socio-spatial studies is a fascinating field, and its application to carceral contexts, sometimes coined as carceral geography, provides a fresh lens for understanding the relationships between social structures, ideologies, identity construction, politics, and capitalist industrial complexes. Shabazz points this lens not at the literal prisons that sit fat and engorged across the Illinois landscape, but on the home communities that have been hegemonically constructed to mirror the social control of prisons. The 20th-century housing segregation of the South Side of Chicago, often called the Black Belt, restricted the mobility of Southern Black migrants seeking opportunity in the North. Shabazz's chapter on kitchenette culture borrows references from the novel Native Son by Richard Wright and the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, demonstrating how the confinements of living conditions helped to construct Black masculine identity. Shabazz follows with several very insightful chapters that trace the roots of Chicago gangs and the current epidemic of Black HIV/AIDS that both influence identity formation and are further reinforced through carceral habitus. His solution seems a little undersized for the problem he has so well defined -- supporting the practice of urban gardening to not only provide fresh nutrition to the food deserts of Chicago but also to build community and healthier expressions of masculine roles as providers. I do think its a fine idea, but not enough to reverse the tide of decades of oppression. Perhaps another solution might be to make his scholarship accessible to Chicago public school curriculum; addressing the history of struggle these communities have endured that have resulted in the experience of today, made explicit in the public classroom, addressing the "subject" of gang membership as a study of social structure and reaction to limited social capital, the "subject" of the AIDS epidemic as it affects the mostly hetero-normative Black poor, and, especially today, Black women.
December 29, 2020
J'aime dire que c'était pour l'école, mais ça n'a pas tant rapport avec mes sujets de recherche. C'était de la procrastination académique, mettons.

L'analyse est assez intéressante. Shabazz s'approprie bien le Foucault de "Surveiller et punir" et lui donne une twist anti-raciste plus que nécessaire. C'était agréable de retrouver une démarche historico-géographique dans un travail dont le sujet m'intéresse. Même si ce n'est plus nécessairement ce qui m'allume comme démarche c'est ce que j'avais tenté de faire pour mon mémoire. Son travail d'archive est tout de même impressionnant et ses sources assez variées. Plusieurs "témoignages" sont tirées des romans de Richard Wright. C'est vraiment une plus-value qui offre une dimension vécue à l'analyse. Le dernier chapitre sur la circulation du VIH/SIDA dans la communauté afro-américaines de la Black Belt de Chicago rappel aussi que la géographie du risque, c'est pas une géo des catastrophes environnementales, mais une géo des catastrophes socio-environnementales. Pis qu'on ne saurait assez souligner le socio.

Par contre, l'épilogue sur les espaces verts et l'importance des jardins communautaires comme espace pour healer est un peu moins maitrisée j'ai l'impression. L'absence de regard critique sur la question de l'écogentrification est assez surprenante considérant ce qui précède. Je ne dis pas que les parcs et les jardins sont mauvais. Mais le lien entre l'embourgeoisement des quartiers, dont ceux de Chicago, et l'aménagement d'espaces verts existe et a été démontré quantitativement et qualitativement. Je trouve que c'est une drôle d'ouverture.
Profile Image for Tanya Sinha.
57 reviews6 followers
November 23, 2019
Angela Y Davis said "Walls turned sideways are bridges."

Henri Lefebvre said "a revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential"

This was a unique critical geographic study on how we create space in society and what effects this has on race, gender, public health and wellbeing of marginalised peoples. Shabazz traces Black Chicago through history and explains processes and politics that created its conditions. There is much said about creating 'landscapes of liberation' and how we can learn from marginalised communities in how they are 'taking back' their spaces away from containment to nourishment and wellbeing. The language is quite academic at times, but the ideas there are solid and is a great application of a critical geographic framework to race and class.
Profile Image for Emily.
157 reviews
October 11, 2021
Absolutely incredible book. Rich in Chicago history and sociological examinations of space and Blackness, this is a powerful read.
Profile Image for Matthew.
584 reviews31 followers
April 5, 2016
Great book on the way that housing rules cultural climate created an environment of strain on black individuals in Chicago during the 20th century. His thesis is that the highly regulated environment of the projects created a liminal space that merged the concepts of home and prison.
Profile Image for LT.
2 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2016
Important perspective that provides a genealogy of black masculinity as a spatial process. A must read for Black geographic thought.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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