[URBANTH-L]CFP: "Immoral Geographies": Corrupting Spaces and Mapping the Spaces of the Corrupt

Erick Castellanos ecastellanos at gmail.com
Wed Mar 8 08:13:52 EST 2006

CFP: "'Immoral Geographies': Corrupting Spaces and Mapping the Spaces of the

105th AAA meeting in San Jose, CA

(November 15-19, 2006)

Deadline for abstracts: March 16, 2006

Please email abstracts of 250 words or less, in AAA format, to
ecastellanos at gmail.com

"Immoral Geographies": Corrupting Spaces and Mapping the Spaces of the

Organizers: Sara M Bergstresser, Harvard Medical School and Erick
Castellanos, Tufts University

This session addresses the spacialization of risk and danger and the ways
that risk, impurity, and corruption have been constructed in relation to
spatial and geographic contexts.  Physical locations have long been
associated with groups of people; a salient example is the use of "race" as
a categorical marker of geographic origin.  Similarly, the marking of
"dangerous" and/or ethnically-marked parts of the city, or areas associated
with certain economic classes (e.g. the "inner-city"; "Chinatown"; "the
wrong side of the tracks"), provides an ongoing means of social
control.  Infectious
agents can be associated with or named after alien origin or acquisition
(Asian flu; West Nile virus; "Montezuma's revenge"), but they can also
suggest local spaces of danger (Lyme disease, Connecticut).  Along with this
ongoing categorization comes the potential manipulation of spaces and
populations through mapping, neighborhood engineering, and a variety of
labels applied from person to place ("Little Italy"; the "barrio"; the
"madhouse") or place to person ("hillbillies"; "trailer trash"; "fresh off
the boat").

The purposing of space has been carried out under the pretext of containing
supposed corruption by mapping its boundaries.  For example, from the 1930s
to the 1960s, the US government set up a national neighborhood appraisal
system, explicitly tying mortgage eligibility to race. Integrated
communities were deemed a financial risk and made ineligible for home loans.
This policy became known today as "redlining" because both the government
and private lenders categorized integrated and African-American communities
"red areas" or areas where loans were not to be made.  Current debates
surround "gentrification" and conversely the engineered economic devaluation
of property through manipulation of populations and attitudes towards
particular spaces.  There are both special and social dimensions of racial
profiling, commercial zones, red light districts, parks and the homeless, or
prostitutes and street corners. These examples may be pointing to instances
of matter-out-of-place, where people are the matter and neighborhoods are
the place, or where stigmatized neighborhoods are the matter and the city is
the place.

 Children, and societal concerns about preserving their purity often surface
in debates of demoralized spaces.  One can read about concerns with keeping
certain images and activities a particular length of space away from schools
(smoking; advertisements for cigarettes or alcohol; "suspicious"
individuals; kidnappers, drug dealers, and sex offenders; pollution;
"inappropriate" images and businesses).  This spacialization of risk also
reiterates itself conceptually in the emerging practice of mapping internet
"spaces" and marking dangerous online locales.  News programs report on how
parents must keep children away from sexual predators in internet chat-rooms
by monitoring "where they've been."  Mundane manifestations of immoral
spaces appear as neighborhood-level panics about pollution, radioactivity,
molds, lead paint, asbestos, mosquitoes, radon gas, methadone clinics, and
halfway houses. There are continued suspicions surrounding the safety of
areas affected by terrorism or natural disasters ("ground zero"; certain
areas of New Orleans).  Finally, the mechanism of haunting becomes a way for
notions about space and its pasts to remain attached as an immoral haze or
as suggestions of unspoken indelible danger (houses where crimes have
occurred; grave yards; ghosts; and "Indian burial grounds").

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