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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic Studies

UC Berkeley

It’s a Racialized World After All: A Transnational Study of Oakland, California and Durban, South Africa as Racialized, Yet Resistant Geographies


Traditional, Western geographers have theorized a separation between land, capital, and labor, which naturalizes a conception of geography as completely independent of sociohistorical factors. This conventional ideology strips the landscape from its ongoing relationship with capital and labor, isolating the land from its white supremacist histories, which—according to Andrea Smith—are embodied through processes of anti-black racism/slaveability, genocide, and orientalism. Scholarship in critical geography has revealed that forces of colonialism and imperialism transcend conventional spatial-temporal limitations, constructing geographies of confinement for people in contemporary times. In focusing on Moms 4 Housing—a collective of Black, marginally housed mothers in Oakland, California—along with Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali)—a Black, South African grassroots movement run by and for shack dwellers in Durban, South Africa—this paper investigates how racial capitalism maps onto the lives of Black peoples in localized regions. More particularly, it offers a transnational study that works to illuminate how African peoples are able to transform racialized sites into sites of resilience. Drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space, my work contributes to a spatial understanding of how neoliberal capitalism confines Black peoples to particular racialized landscapes across the diaspora. Rooted in the Black Radical Tradition, along with Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s conceptualization of abolition geographies, I examine what pushes distinct African peoples to mobilize around humanity in ways that advance a transformative and inclusive politic of Freedom. Ultimately, this study reveals similarities in processes and practices, as well as “slippages, openings, and contradictions” between Black peoples in relation to a global fight against racial capitalism and white supremacy.

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