Entangled Histories for Indeterminate Futures: Racial Capitalisms, Resistances, and Space in Central Virginia

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-7960-5189
Diamond, Alissa Ujie, Constructed Environment - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Wilson, Barbara Brown, Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia
Meyer, Elizabeth, Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia
Otu, Kwame, African Studies, Georgetown University
Perry, Tony, Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History

This project studies the Charlottesville-Albemarle area through the lens of sedimented and spatialized racial histories. Foundational stories are central to society’s framing of the ongoing and everyday actions that pertain to our collective futures. But public memory is not fixed: histories are constantly made and remade, and dynamics of power and interest are as constituent of these stories as the “facts” themselves. In many cases, celebratory and linear histories serve the interests of elites and those seeking to consolidate histories around supporting particular kinds of gain. This work seeks to destabilize and reorganize historical facts through a relational approach to history: probing the gaps, unraveling constructed certainties, ticking between and connecting across various historical, spatial, and social positionalities, and reorganizing seemingly unconnected stories across time and space.

The resulting study is structured roughly chronologically. Section One starts with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Area about ten years before the American Civil War. I make the case that the locality was, even in its agricultural state, an important node in commodity exchanges that brought significant wealth to white plantation and merchant classes from across the globe. I then show how the spatial logics and of commodity crop growing permeated the everyday lives of Virginians across scales from the landscape all the way down to the individual human body. Section 2 turns toward post-bellum Charlottesville after the Civil War, and traces how Charlottesville was entangled with the institutional, cultural, and spatial shifts that moved from racial indeterminacy soon after emancipation to the rigid codification and spatialization of racial differences through urbanization by 1929. Section Three deliberately turns away from these invented trajectories that insist that spaces, humans, and people are most valuable in their ability to produce differential valuations for capital accumulation. In this chapter I use my own historical situatedness to explore what possibilities my antecedents “put down” in order “succeed” in the context of the racial capitalist city. I explore few avenues and frameworks that point toward alternative relationalities and entanglements that exist in parallel to dominant logics. I term these options hiding in plain sight genealogies of entanglement, and argue for designers and spatial thinkers to “pick up” these available threads, long suppressed because of the danger they pose to systems of accumulation. I speculate as to where these explorations might move our social-environmental trajectories if explored collectively amidst the collapses of our current systems.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
urban planning, landscape history, racial capitalism, space, Charlottesville
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