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In-Depth Interview: Prof. Rashad Shabazz Uses Historical Geography to Analyze Segregation, Incarceration

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Rashad Shabazz, assistant professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University talks about his remarkable book Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago.Shabazz previously taught geography at the University of Vermont.  His new book offers unique frames and analysis for the origins of today’s mass incarceration of African Americans.  He traces the history of segregating blacks in his native Chicago in the “black belt” on the city’s south side, going back a century to describe the “vice district” where whites and blacks mingled.  Through heavy policing, legal limitations on black property ownership, and the promotion of tiny “kitchenette” living spaces for new arrivals from the south, segregation was established and maintained.

Decades later, the construction of high rise public housing projects on the south side extended the boundaries and confinement of the past.

Shabazz uses this important history to inform his powerful commentary on today’s conflicts between police and African Americans, and the ongoing struggles that play out most recently in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge.