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Academic Publications

Feeling the Vibe: Feelings and Praxes of a Black Sense of Place in Oakland, California

This article is part of a forthcoming special issue I am co-editing in Antipode with Nadia Mosquera Muriel on the politics and poetics of Black senses of place.


Abstract: Black artists, activists, and residents describe their sense of place as part of efforts to claim community space in the midst of racialised dispossession in Oakland, California. “Vibe” is a term used to describe this relationship. The author explains the term by drawing on ethnographic and archival data from research conducted in Oakland between 2019 and 2020. This paper explores vibe as the means by which black life is emotionally, relationally, and geographically made possible in the midst of structural racial violence. The author breaks vibe down into three modalities, or structures of relation, through which vibe is commonly evoked: hustle, care, and openness. These forms of relation are unpacked using the story of one local Black business owner. Vibe, thus, is more than a description, but an expression of relation that is politically, culturally, and economically central to Black geographic imaginaries and struggles.

photo by Sunflower Love

Development campaigns in Oakland, California advance gentrification in the city through the use of Black visual cultures. Black communities that produce this culture are in turn displaced by processes of gentrification. This article proposes two concepts, the “Black geographic image” and “emancipatory framing”, to explain methods for interrupting this visual exploitation and reclaiming space for Black visual culture in Oakland. I analyse the connections between visual aesthetics, geography, and racialised identities by drawing on ethnographic interviews and the photographic works of Oakland artist and entrepreneur, Sunflower Love. I suggest that her photos exemplify a Black geographic image-making process; these images rebuke a two-dimensional production of space in favour of a trialectic form of representation that highlights the value of a Black experience of place. How Sunflower uses these images to advance her business is a form of emancipatory framing, in which she unsettles hegemonic racialising images while still working within capitalistic strictures to generate income for herself. The paper concludes by arguing that these visual negotiations are integral to ongoing contestations over the identity of, and therefore spatio-political claims to, Oakland as a Black city.


Jones, N. et al. "Other than the Projects, You Stay Professional": "Colorblind" Cops and the Enactment of Spatial Racism in Routine Policing" City & Community


Pierce, L. & Heitz, K. "“Say Their Names” review of The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, Alabama. American Quarterly


"Pictured pioneers: photographic representation of Japanese-American identity on the frontier" Visual Studies


“A Seat at the Table?: Reflections on Black Geographies and the Limits to Dialogue” Dialogues in Human Geography

In this article, we show how routine policing is conscripted into the project of maintaining and reproducing spatial racism in urban settings through an intersecting set of macro-level processes and micro-interactional practices. ...We find that officers use membership categorization devices to sort people and places in the city into distinct categories (e.g., nice places, normal people, the projects, and people in the projects), which, in turn, prefigure different orientations to action at the start of and throughout their encounters with the public. Our findings provide an empirical basis for thinking of professional police knowledge as encoding systemic racism in routine policing, rather than being a break from it.

"the memorial grounds face northeast,

a view that privileges the rolling green hills just beyond the downtown skyline. Bridges that cross the Alabama River are visible, as are the courthouse  bonds businesses, attorneys’ offices, and parole centers...that surround the city, a reminder of the argument presented

at the Legacy Museum: that slavery persists in the form of a racially biased justice system."

s, bail

This visual historical analysis places a photographic representation of the American Western desert as a foremost lens for understanding the way that Japanese internment was then interpreted and has been since memorialised. The work draws from oral histories and archival images to document how photography and the landscape at Manzanar in the Eastern Sierras influenced the way incarcerated communities were racially and politically transformed – from national enemy, to all-American pioneers.

This commentary uses the Black Geographies Symposium, held at UC Berkeley from October 11-12, 2017, as a point of departure to discuss the political and intellectual limits of calls for dialogue. We focus specifically on the historical exclusion of Black scholars and Black thought from human geography and understand the academy as a site for the reproduction of epistemic violence against women and people of color...We argue for nonhierarchical and nonlinear modes of study that can attend to the complex geographical itineraries and interconnected struggles that continue to shape our understandings of the relations of capitalism, racism, and sexism structuring the modern world.

Public Scholarship


"the way that “no there there” has haunted Oakland is part of what makes the city so poignant to study at the personal or affective level. It’s the underdog, and has been the underdog for so long that a culture has built up around this identity of grit, determination, and hustle."

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