Global Black Geographies: Racial Capitalism and Black Urban Experiences

Drs Renato Emerson dos Santos, Priscilla Ferreira and Willie J Wright

Funding period: 1 March 2022 – 1 November 2022
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institutions: Rutgers-New Brunswick (USA), Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick (USA), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro-IPPUR (Brazil), Museum of Favela Maré (Brazil), Centro Cultural Pequena África (Brazil), Iniciativa Pelo Direito à Memória e Justiça Racial (Brazil), and Museu da História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira- Muhcab (Brazil)
Dates: March 2022 (Rio de Janeiro) and October 2022 (New Brunswick, Newark and New York City)
Lead organisers: Dr Renato Emerson Nascimento dos Santos (Regional and Urban Planning Research Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro-IPPUR), Dr Priscilla Ferreira (Rutgers-New Brunswick) and Dr Willie J Wright (University of Florida)
Team members: Gizele Oliveira Martins (Journalist with PUC-Rio, and organizer with Movimento de Favelas do Rio de Janeiro, Movimento Internacional Julho Negro, Movimento BDS-Brazil and El Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos), Fransergio Goulart (Executive director of the Initiative in defense of Memoryand racial justice, and historian and Favela organizer at Baixada), Dr Yousuf Al Bulushi (University of California, Irvine), and Dr Adam Bledsoe (University of Minnesota)
Contact: Priscilla Ferreira

Abstract: As the most recent spectacle of state violence surrounding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has demonstrated, anti-Blackness remains deeply entrenched in the architecture of urban governance in the United States. More importantly, the ensuing national and global dissemination of protests against state violence—to distant places such as Dakar and Berlin—demonstrate that the dialectical relationship between anti-Blackness and the Black radical tradition remains globally resonant. Brazil and the United States prove to be apt case studies to examine the articulations of racial capitalism and global racial regimes, and how these regimes are spatialized in the concrete locals of urban environments. This is especially so given that both countries have long histories entwined with slavery and marronage, as well as their parallel contemporary forms of violent urban confinement and rapidly growing Black social movements.

This two-part seminar series brings Black Geographies into Urban Studies while simultaneously strengthening the global network of researchers and activists interested in Black geographies studies and activist interventions against the racialized power dynamics that perpetuates devaluation, expropriation, and marginalization of Black lives and majority-Black places. It highlights the need for urban theorists to foreground Black Studies epistemologies in their work, and in so doing, to also draw on the important contributions of social movement participants in our collective knowledge production.

The international seminars will take place in academic and grassroots spaces both in Brazil and the United States. It will make space for a multiplicity of modes of interaction and knowledge production including series conversation circles, round tables, film screenings, artistic presentations, and field visits to places of Black historical importance, such as Centro Cultural Pequena África and Museu da Maré, and some activities will be hosted in favelas in Rio de Janeiro that stand out for their histories and long traditions of urban struggles and community activism in different fields.

This project also received a USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award in November 2021 (see below).

USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award: Insurgent Black Urban Geographies in Brazil

Our collective proposal for the USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award seeks to support three (3) on-the-ground initiatives of Black geographies in resistance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Each initiative tackles one of the political issues highlighted in the thematic panels of the International Seminar Series Global titled Black Geographies: Racial Capitalism and Black Urban Experiences, to take place in Rio de Janeiro (June 2022) and New Brunswick/New York (November 2022) with support from the USF International Seminar Series Award. The issues that both the international seminars and Knowledge Mobilization initiatives focus on are:

  1. prison abolition and defunding the police
  2. the right to memory and racial justice
  3. Black solidarity economies

The Knowledge Mobilisation Award offers support to three initiatives:

  • An interactive theater play based on the book of the community journalist from Favela Maré in Rio de Janeiro, Gizele Martins. Her book is titled Militarization of Favelas and Censorship: Struggles for Freedom of Expression in Favela Maré. Coletivo of Favela Maré created and presented online performative readings of Martin’s book during the pandemic. With the support of the Knowledge Mobilization Award, Coletivo will further develop the theatrical project around the impact of militarization in the favela based on Martin’s book and do a series of presentations of the play in public schools in Maré.
  • A series of community-based workshops and a campaign around prison abolition, defunding the police, and advancing a praxis of non-punitive and accountable communities. The abolitionist grassroots organization and independent research institute, Instituto Pelo Direito à Memória e Justiça Racial that works in the majority-Black territory known as Baixada Fluminense will lead this initiative.
  • Production and showcase of a short documentary featuring the role of Black women in mutual aid schemes and Black solidarity economies in Rio de Janeiro. Afro-Brazilian activist and Geography and Latinx and Caribbean Studies Professor at Rutgers University, Dr. Priscilla Ferreira, will lead this initiative alongside Leila Souza, a Black feminist, solidarity economy organizer, and founder of the Cultural Center and Atelier Mulheres de Pedra, in Pedra de Guaratiba in the west side periphery of Rio de Janeiro.