Rea Zaimi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Illinois, Urbana, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9671

Approve Date

April 18, 2018

Project Title

Zaimi, Rea, U. of Illinois, Urbana, IL - To aid research on 'Afterlives of Disinvestment: Revitalization and Infra-Structural Labor in Chicago,' supervised by Dr. Jesse Ribot

REA ZAIMI, then a graduate student at University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, received funding in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Afterlives of Disinvestment: Revitalization and Infra-Structural Labor in Chicago,’ supervised by Dr. Jesse Ribot. Since the Great Recession, urban vacancy has become a central focus of emerging bodies of expertise, land banks, consultancy companies, and a host of public and private institutions at multiple scales. These institutions attribute vacancy to disinvestment and invoke capital’s historical abandonment of the ‘inner city’ to stimulate development in high-vacancy neighborhoods through investment in land and real estate. Drawing on archival, ethnographic and document research on Chicago’s South Side, this study ‘ renamed ‘Reproducing Racial Regimes of Ownership: Vacancy and the Labor of Revitalization on Chicago’s South Side’ — challenges the narratives of capital abandonment and disinvestment that inform current responses to vacancy in urban planning, policy and theory circles. Through three related arguments, it situates vacancy as an outcome of the historical and ongoing co-production of race and property. First, the study foregrounds the constitutive role that the construction of a racialized proper(tied) economic subjectivity has played in the organization of modern housing markets, which instrumentalize racial difference to generate opportunities for the appropriation of surplus by real estate capital. Second, the study reveals that concentrated vacancy on Chicago’s South Side archives not capital abandonment so much as the influx of highly extractive forms of investment whose conditions of possibility are intimately entwined with the racial regimes of property engendered by the routine operation of real estate markets. Finally, the study illustrates that these racial regimes of property are being reinstantiated by contemporary vacant-land redevelopment efforts that traffic in liberal discourses of ‘community’ and ’empowerment’ but position residents in differentiated relations to land and property. This project seeks to expand urban scholars and planning practitioners’ capacity to critically address vacancy, and the urban land question more broadly, by training the analytical lens on those historical and ongoing processes that mobilize race as a modality for the differential (de)valuation of life, land and labor at the heart of racial capitalism.