Race and Public Space

June Jordan’s “Skyrise for Harlem,” Esquire magazine, April 1965.

RAPS Theme 2022-2023: Lost Histories: Recovering Communities and Challenging Denialisms
The very ground that most cities are sited on carries deep histories tied to displacement, settler colonialism, and erasure. This year, the Race and Public Space working group of the Institute for Public Knowledge, will convene a range of scholars and change agents to think about not only where we stand, but who came before and what shall come after this moment. From projects that recover lost communities of color to movements that repatriate land a deepening of understanding of the past and possibilities for the will be hatched.

Seven years ago, when U.S. citizens elected Barack Obama as the first African American president, many pundits and scholars predicted the imminent rise of a post-racial era in politics and popular culture. Today, however, concerns about racial discrimination and violence are growing, with heated debates over everything from immigration reform to disproportionate criminal sentencing to the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians. Still, deep insights into the social dynamics driving these issues are hard to come by, and innovative policy proposals about how to address them are especially lacking.

The workshop on Race and Public Space investigates social difference through explorations of how people experience, narrate, critique, and experiment with social practices and policies that yield racial disparities and produce political fault lines. We will examine historical, ethnographic, theoretical, and literary texts that investigate how racial differences are produced in diverse social contexts. And we will pay special attention to the ways public space shapes the context of racial domination and differentiation, or, more hopefully, social change.

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