Geography and Geographic Information Science

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Afterlives of Disinvestment: Revitalization and Infra-Structural Labor in Chicago

Event Type
Geography & GIS
Room 2049 Natural History Building, Russell Seminar Room
Nov 10, 2017   4:00 - 5:00 pm  
Rea Zaimi, Ph.D. student in Geography & GIS
This event is free and open to the public.
Denise Jayne

Mass foreclosures in the wake of the housing crisis exacerbated the vacancy, population decline and decaying infrastructure that have plagued the Rust Belt for decades. Under shrinking budgets and fiscal austerity, city governments are mobilizing vacancy and revitalization programs as key levers for re-organizing land and labor surplused by the crisis and by decades of state-sanctioned racialized disinvestment and organized abandonment. These efforts reframe decline as an opportunity to build more equitable cities in recession’s ruins. In this vein, the City of Chicago has implemented innovative programs to turn vacant land and buildings, cast as detritus, into a resource for spurring community-centered development in its South Side neighborhoods. This dissertation project will analyze how the revitalization of vacant land and buildings is reconfiguring the political-economic forces that produce racialized urban landscapes of (dis)accumulation. Vacancy is explored as a lens into the afterlives of disinvestment – decline and revitalization. Through ethnographic and archival methods, this research will show how Chicago’s vacancy programs are mobilizing residents’ labor and transforming their role in the production of space on the city’s South Side. As vacancy becomes a pivotal site for governing residents’ relations to land, this study will examine the mechanisms that enroll residents’ devalued or unpaid labor in the revalorization of disinvested spaces, and the ways historical entanglements of waste, race and space are being reworked in and through this labor. This project seeks to position the labor of revitalization as a key site for critical theoretical and policy engagement with infrastructural and socio-spatial transformations under austerity.

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