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The Collective Come-Up: Black Queer Placemaking in Subprime Baltimore

  • Author(s): Whitley, Melissa
  • Advisor(s): Williams, Juliet A
  • et al.
Abstract

The Collective Come-Up: Black Queer Placemaking in Subprime Baltimore engages the experiences, community organizing, and alternative economic frameworks of black queer and transgender women in the age of “credit-led accumulation” and neoliberal urban planning projects that stimulate the gentrification of black neighborhoods (Soederberg 2013). This black feminist ethnography, situated within the overlapping geographies of urban renewal programs, subprime foreclosure, and speculative urbanism, foregrounds the contested place in black queer spatial imaginaries of private property in a city with 30,000 vacant properties and lots. Specifically, I examine Brioxy’s black land movement in West Baltimore – an effort that seeks to forestall gentrification and “keep the hood black.” From black placemaking to “putting a stake in the ground” against gentrification, I consider how black queer organizers figure the post-crisis financial and real estate markets as sites of both subjection and possibility. Provocatively, the collective puts forth a collectivized model of black private property ownership as opposition to structural processes of gentrification and black displacement. At the same time, they engage in what I call speculative social reproduction across black queer households to confront the antiblackness of speculative finance capitalism.

As a critical intervention, this dissertation discloses the ongoing violence of liberal property and propertied citizenship by contesting contemporary constructions of the subprime foreclosure crisis itself. This project centers archives of effects overlooked in standard accounts, including the life and death of a black transgender woman killed in a vacant residential property. In dialogue with queer of color analyses of capitalism’s contradictions, I characterize Baltimore’s landscapes of subprime architectures and consider the ways that decades of urban renewal and foreclosure policies regulate black trans life and produce untimely death. Case studies of black queer and trans placemaking compel us to consider the ways that black queer and trans folx aim to variously appropriate, disassemble, refuse, or “disidentify” with property and “propertied citizenship” (Mu�oz 1999; Roy 2003).

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