My research primarily examines the ways that disenfranchised groups re-appropriate their marginalized spaces in the city to gain access to and sustain urban political power and empowerment. Using an interdisciplinary and multiple method approach, this research question engages scholarship in urban studies, political science, urban history, black feminist studies, community development, urban policy, and critical geography using both qualitative and quantitative data and methods. This research agenda is particularly relevant in these politically unstable times, where cities continue to marginalize underrepresented minority groups by defunding public institutions, promoting urban policies that subsidize their displacement while limiting affordable housing options, and continuing the funding and support of a militarized police force.
This research began as an examination of public housing developments in Atlanta, the first major city to completely eliminate (through demolition) all family-style public housing in the United States. Consequently, Atlanta was the first city to receive federal funding for the construction of public housing in the nation – Techwood Homes, constructed in 1936. As the population residing within Atlanta’s public housing increased – approximately ten percent of all Atlantans lived in public housing by 1980 – the city began considering reducing its public housing stock due to rising crime and poverty rates within and around the developments. While the problem of public housing and concentrated poverty is well documented in the social science literature, there have been few attempts to document the politics of public housing and its effect on the politics in public housing. My manuscript explores how the politics of public housing planning and race in Atlanta created a politics of resistance within public housing developments. Generally, this research is attempting to provide alternate benefits of public housing, outside of shelter provision, to challenge the overwhelming narrative of public housing as a dysfunctional relic of the welfare state.
I am currently engaged in a project that measures the effect of black political empowerment (as proxied through black mayoralty and percentage of black council members) on the possibility of demolishing public housing developments, which as my research suggests, are bases of black political empowerment in the city. This research is in conjunction with Dr. Michael Leo Owens of Emory University and Dr. Robert Brown of Spelman University.