spatial politics · womanhood

space and place

lauren elkinThe students enrolled in my Gender, Race and Urban Space class got off to a great start yesterday. We had a wonderful conversation.

I loved learning how three of them are former athletes, which resonates given my present book project, which uses the University of Miami football program as a starting place to think about the way in which marginalized people make claims to power on the Florida peninsula.

Next week, the students will explore such a concept with Stephanie M.H. Camp‘s study on the everyday resistance of African American women in the plantation South and Lauren Elkin’s exploration of the way in which women disrupt the social order by walking through urban spaces in mind.

The theme for next week’s readings is “space and place.” As I say in my next book, to speak of a space requires thinking of a place, or something that you can see. Alabama, the state, is something you can see.  It is real. It shows up on maps. This is the case even though many scholars understood years ago how a country is just an agreement.

To speak of space is to bear witness to something that is far more powerful.  A space is also real. It can be a place as it can, indeed, appear on a map. But it also refers to things not as easily articulated. Those things have huge consequences. They can even be politically charged as something Camp and Elkin understood while paying attention to, in the case of the plantation South, how an enslaved woman can disrupt the social order by placing amalgamation prints on her slave cabin walls even, or how a wandering white woman can move from Point A to Point B with no real purpose, appearing as a deviant in cities, places associated with darkness.

As the students discovered this week, a black woman in particular are under surveillance when moving anywhere. She meets at the intersection, as historian Deborah Gray White has written, every myth about black people and women. Kimberle Crenshaw’s writings and the work of others expand this discussion.

I look forward to seeing how the students sort through these ideas with a Sophie Calle film Elkin mentions also before us.

This particular conversation will doubtless resonate with my own research in Iceland. That 2017 trip figures into my teaching and a recently published essay.

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