Spatial Inequalities and Segregation in the Urban Landscape

Jane Padelford's picture
Call for Papers
June 1, 2019
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, American History / Studies, Race Studies, Urban Design and Planning, Urban History / Studies


within the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and cultural geography, there is an emerging body of theoretical, historical, and design research which recognizes the capacity of the built environment to serve as a repository of our collective and individual cultural history and memory. Yet contemporary methodologies of design often ignore the power of the landscape to evoke the history and memory of place, homogenizing the diverse cultural forces resident in the landscape, and thus reinforcing a peculiar sense of collective amnesia. --- Craig Barton, Sites of Memory, xiv

The legacies of segregation, apartheid, and colonialism as they construct inequitable land use in cities are essential domains of study for landscape historians. Building on investigations of sites of memory, trauma, and racialized experience, this symposium invites scholars to engage with the urban landscape and / or environment through interrogating the means by which inequities, displacement, and spatial violence have affected the creation, development, and use of various spaces and sites in the urban public realm. We also seek scholarship into the everyday spatial practices through which marginalized communities resisted these oppressions and constructed alternative or counter narratives and spaces. This project furthers the efforts of Dumbarton Oaks’ Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies over the past four years, including the symposia and publications Food and the City, River Cities/City Rivers and Landscapes of Pre-Industrial Urbanism as well as a recent graduate workshop focused on the legacies of slavery and segregation in the Virginia landscape. The “urban landscape” is understood here as the whole socially- and physically-produced urban fabric and geography of land use distribution, alongside the more familiar public realm of parks, plazas, streets, alleys and infrastructure.

We seek papers that consider how social policies intersect with landscape and environmental realities to shape the intention and implementation of land use policies (redlining is just one example) that segregate communities in specific parts of the urban landscape. We wish to identify shared legacies that remain evident today—as between those of apartheid in the United States and South Africa for instance—and to compare past, present, and potential future conditions. In considering the role of racial topographies and segregated landscapes, scholars might consider the relegation of low-income people to bottom lands, flood prone areas, and steep slopes, in both historical settlements and migrant communities. Access to natural resources including clean air and water will also be a part of the narrative, as will unequal access to economic, employment, and recreational opportunities. Further, scholars might identify parallels in the disproportionate impact that climate change and coastal inundation are sure to have on the economically disadvantaged around the world. We welcome paper proposals that address past inequities as well as those that offer responses or alternative narratives regarding sites of memory and trauma, sites of territorial injustice and conflict, sites of protest and of reconciliation.  We are interested in projects addressing the scale of bounded sites and spaces as well as the broader networks and frameworks within which cities are conceived and lived in. These, and other related investigations, may be spatial, material and human, in addition to social, political, and historical. As is customary for the Garden and Landscape Studies program, we welcome the participation of both scholars and designers.  We invite landscape, planning, and urban historians, as well as geographers, political ecologists, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others, to share their scholarship on the legacies of spatial inequality and segregation in urban landscapes and the public realm.

Submission Requirements:

Email a 500 word-abstract and a two-page CV, as a single PDF file, by June 1, 2019 to Thaisa Way  ( and to Garden and Landscape Studies (; write “CFP Symposium 2020” in the subject line of the email.


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