My dissertation research begins with two theoretical assertions posited in “Black Feminisms, Deep Space and Syndemic Segregation in the United States and South Africa” in Standpoints: Feminist Knowledges. First, for Black residents, contemporary cities are racialized palimpsests[1], bearing the imprints of their respective socio-political, geographic and economic histories. Histories derived from the local operationalization of a historically global categorization of Blackness as “other.” Second, these palimpsest cities are contemporaneously experienced as syndemic racism by Black South Africans and Black Americans, respectively.

Extending from these points, through transnational, comparative analysis between Johannesburg, South Africa and Chicago, IL USA, this paper series explores discursive practices-digital and offline-in the triadic dynamics between local municipalities, Black residents, and Black communities within, and against, the palimpsest city, centering on public health, and social services, and housing. The papers combine social network analysis and digital ethnography situated with Black feminism and emancipatory frameworks.

Municipal Social Media Data, Discourse, and Practice

The first article seeks to explore how palimpsest cities influence digital discourses and digital media techniques employed by municipalities to inform, communicate with, and engage their respective Black communities. Analyzing official municipal Twitter accounts of Chicago, IL, USA and Johannesburg, South Africa between December 1, 2019 and March 30, 2019, this article provides a comparative, mixed-methods descriptive statistical analysis and social-change discourse analysis.

Black Resident Subjectivities – Analysis of Discourse, and Framing Practices

The second article centers on the interplay between the palimpsest city and Black resident subjectivity.  Specifically, the ways in which these subjectivities come into dual practice in digital urban contestations– first, in discursive practices with local municipalities, and second, in social and issue framing practices in their respective social networks.  This work combines mixed-methods social change-oriented discourse analysis, interview and digital ethnographic techniques to Twitter interactions between Black residents and official City account posts of between December 1, 2019 and March 30, 2020.  

Community, Culture and Context in Discursive and Framing Practices of Black Communities in Urban Contestations

The third article is a multi-site, multi-geographical ethnography exploring the cultural and social practices around community-based advocacy by marginalized communities in racialized, palimpsest cities.  The goal of the paper is to explore the cultural and contextual differences in the discursive and framing practices of how Black communities advocate-online and offline- for housing and human rights issues in Chicago, IL, USA and Johannesburg, South Africa. This paper applies social change-oriented discourse analysis to interview data, participant observations, and social network data collected throughout 2019 and 2020.

Woodard, D. (2019). Black Feminisms, Deep Space and Syndemic Segregation in the United States and South Africa. In A. Baldwin, A. Reichelmann, & A. K. Harrison (Eds.), Standpoints: Feminist Knowledges (pp. 117–137).

[1] A palimpsest is a manuscript on which the original content has been effaced, and new text written, however remnants of the original remains visible.  In this way, the “palimpsest city” is a contemporary urban form for which the historical racialized forms and functions remain visible and socially and institutionally legible.  The defining aspect is not simply the visibility of original content, the insufficient erasure in such a manner that its legibility alters or undermines new discursive content.

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