Criminalizing Space: Ideological and Institutional productions of Race, Gender, and State-sanctioned Violence in Houston, 1948-1967, March 3, 2017, 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
David Ponton, III
Criminalizing Space is a social history of ideas that explores various ways racial residential segregation affected the life chances of black Houstonians during the middle of the twentieth century. Jim Crow polices, custom, and living patterns marginalized black citizens from their white counterparts, negatively shaping the ways white people could relate to black people and the places they lived in. As Jim Crow slowly withered away, however, Houstonians struggled to redefine the meaning of race in ways that could be compatible with liberal individualism. Many came to rely on spatial logics. Spatial distance undergirded the social distance that stratified groups in a persistent racial hierarchy. It allowed for sustained Negrophobia, which included notions that black people were inherently predisposed or culturally conditioned to live in squalor, indulge in vice, and practice crime. For many white Houstonians, these were inherent in black spaces and justified the need for their containment through various forms of municipal neglect and abuse. Despite the efforts of black women activists, politicians, and philanthropists, the criminalization of black spaces had devastating effects on black people. It overexposed them to environmental hazards, poverty, violent crime, and police brutality. Spatial marginalization exacerbated the effects of these on black women, who faced sexual assault at the hands of police officers and employers as well as increased risks for assault and murder by their intimate partners in their own homes.