Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Initial thoughts on a dissertation

I'm a planner, okay? I love dreaming of the future. Now that the thesis is done, I'm reading books on identity and place -- specifically multicultural spaces that support, enhance, and strenghten multiple ethnic and racial groups and the larger community that includes us all.

Today at lunch I was reading Geographical Identities of Ethnic America.

The following describes in tantalizing vagueness why this will be the subject of my next degree. I even thought of a title for my dissertation/book today: Leaving Room: A Politics of Freedom and Inclusion.

Sexy, huh?

Some quotes from this latest book to pique my interest:

4: “Underlying the theme that place and space and place are influential in the articulation of identity is our premise that identities are socially constructed. Constructed, as Manuel Castells (1997) points out, because identity is the source of people’s meaning and experience”

Think William James here. Race and ethnicity may not exist in any proveable way with definitions that even most of us would agree with. But the point is that people find them to be useful constructs to describe themselves, make meaning of their communities/lives, or organize for action and/or economic vitality. That’s powerful! So why don’t we understand better how identities are contested in space and how to harness the power of multiple identities to SHARE spaces. That’s where I come in.

Think about how amazing and revolutionary this idea would be – Palestine and Israel, Rio Rancho/ABQ/Bernalillo/Corrales/Santa Ana Pueblo, Barelas/Downtown, etc.

6: “two themes: 1) how space and place influence racial and ethnic identities and 2) how individuals and groups acting on their identities create spatial patterns and landscapes.”

Again, understanding how each of these processes work and being able to reverse them to be successful prescriptive – to create places that support, enhance, and strengthen multiple identies – is the real trick.

7: “collective patterns of identity can be imprinted on landscapes and places over time, transforming the landscape. Subsequent landscapes bear the imprint of the strength of the ethnic group to re-create the landscape with material and nonmaterial symbols and forms of social interaction. Language, religion, kinship patterns, settlement, agriculture, and labor patterns become visible on the cultural landscape of a region as global forces of migration become localized over time. The power of the local landscape lies in its ability to reinforce racial and ethnic identity of second and third-generation residents as well as new immigrants to the region.”

Geography takes a rather narrow and yet too specific view of this shit. There needs to be a way to bridge sociology, geography, community planning, and urban design.

12: “Geography is an important mechanism for reinforcing racial and ethnic identity and experience, and that geography is partially defined by race and ethnicity. What holds this group [of collected authors] together is an interest in raising awareness of the ties that bind North American racial and ethnic groups to their spaces and places. All the contributors also uphold a commitment to share their insights and information about a particular racial or ethnic group in the broader context of other group experiences.”

I agree with their premises and assumptions. I think it needs to go further. Geography tends to only be analytical; I would want to make it implementable and practical in a political and spatial sense. Easy enough, right?

But where? Which university? Which department? Cultural Studies? Urban Studies? Planning? Sociology? Geography?

Anyone have suggestions?

No comments:

Post a Comment