Claiming Place: Race, Land, and Spatial Justice

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:40
Oral Presentation
Sarah FRANZEN, Emory University, USA
In 1973, Robert Browne wrote “Only Six Million Acres”, a seminal report on the rapid land dispossession among African American farmers, mostly in the rural south. Today, African American farmers own an estimated 3.6 million acres (NASS, 2012). This rapid decline has not only stripped African American communities of a primary wealth asset, it has affected the place-making strategies of those that live on and near these landholdings. This project departs from simply viewing land as an asset in order to explore how African American farmers make places, in spite of or in addition to land ownership.

The goal of this project is to present a visceral geography (Hayes-Conroy, 2010) of African American rural landscapes by displaying the interconnection of spatial construction, movement, and emplaced stories. In order to do so, this project combines different types of materials: video tours of African American farms, oral histories, maps, statistical information, and written context. These materials are combined within an interactive website in which viewers can move between them. Within the website, viewers can also select more curated forms of engaging with the materials through guided “tours” that construct narratives with the material. This presentation will offer a brief overview of the website.

This format offers a number of advantages over standard textual or video formats. First, within the digital platform, the films are presented in a non-linear format through which meaning is derived from the relational patterns that emerge among and between pieces. Second, the interaction of materials provides a means to visually display the dialectical interplay between material structures, social relations, and human agency within the multi-faceted production of space. Third, by showcasing emplaced stories, this project contends that more than land rights, people claim spatial rights – the right to make, name, reside on, and value places.