Planning Liminalities: Mapping Black Trans Spaces in Washington, DC.

Albahar, Shahab, Constructed Environment - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Sewell, Jessica, AR-Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia

The field of urban planning scholarship has not fully explored the concept of intersectionality, which offers a nuanced understanding of social categorizations. This dissertation aims to bridge this gap by integrating queer ethnography into urban planning research. The study employs ethnographic methods to uncover the everyday experiences of Black transgender women in Washington, DC, and provide a deeper understanding of their spatial encounters with planning interventions. By placing planning within the context of queer geographies, the study sheds light on the multifaceted experiences of Black trans women in urban spaces that have often been overlooked. Specifically, the study examines the Stroll, a significant location in their shared history where community formation and sexual labor intersect. The exploration reveals how these liminal spaces are constructed, negotiated, experienced, and reclaimed within normative planning paradigms. The dissertation begins by centering the voices of Black trans women who experienced the Stroll at the turn of the 21st century. The following three chapters embark on a comprehensive inquiry of the site, charting its spatial evolution over two centuries and shedding light on shifting planning paradigms and urban interventions, including zoning, and their implications for producing and sustaining liminal spaces. This research makes a significant contribution to critical planning theory, queer and trans geographies, and public policy, highlighting the limitations of traditional methods in capturing the intricate realities of marginalized communities. By shedding light on the lived experiences of Black trans women and their interactions with urban environments, the study advocates for more inclusive and intersectional approaches in future planning practices. Ultimately, this dissertation underscores the importance and utility of integrating queer ethnography into urban planning research to gain a deeper understanding of the diverse and complex experiences of marginalized communities. Its findings have implications for more inclusive, compassionate, and equitable spatial policies and interventions, bridging the gap between urban theory and practice.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Liminality, Queer Ethnography, Urban Planning, Trans Geography, Trans Studies
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