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Waste, Race, and Space: Urban Redevelopment and Environmental Justice in Bayview-Hunters Point


Remediating and redeveloping polluted, industrialized land has emerged as a significant urban growth strategy in U.S. cities since the 1990s. In the same historical moment, the U.S. military has sought to close and transfer hundreds of military bases to cities - part of a process of "shutting down the Cold War". In California, many of these urban military bases were once destinations for African Americans leaving the Jim Crow south during World War II. In the postwar decades, many of the neighborhoods surrounding these military bases have struggled with multiple forms of racism and urban neglect, including health inequalities from toxic urban environments. This study examines the articulation of waste, race, and space in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of southeast San Francisco, which surrounds the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Once a space of hope and opportunity for black migrants from the south, the shipyard today is understood as an unhealthy, threatening, and sometimes violent site for many long-time Bayview-Hunters Point residents. At the same time, since the 1990s, the shipyard has emerged as a profitable landscape for developers, banks, environmental engineering firms, and a terrain on which social groups in San Francisco imagine and struggle over the future of the city. Through five empirical chapters, I examine the cultural politics of polluted urban land in Bayview-Hunters Point today, focusing on the Hunters Point Shipyard and its neighboring industrial waterfront. At the analytical level, I argue that focusing on the materialities and social relations of waste offers a critical lens onto the urban process.

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