RESEARCH + ACTION

Everyone has a right to a home (city) which is reflective of and respectful to their lived experiences.

In order to realize the inclusive, representative, and responsive cities which urban planners and urbanists strive to reach in the future, the processes and policies of urban planning and municipal governance must fully engage the voices of residents who have been historically marginalized. 

Through leveraging emergent and disparate methodological traditions in combination with emancipatory theoretical foundations, the broad goal of my dissertation research was to explore the ways in which interwoven historical racializations remain present in contemporary contestations of place and space between urban actors, specifically Black residents, Black communities (organizations) and municipalities, in digital and non-digital space in Johannesburg, South Africa and Chicago, IL, United States.

FRAMES OF BLACKNESS IN THE RACIALIZED PALIMPSEST CITY: DIGITAL DISCURSIVE AND FRAMING PRACTICES OF BLACKNESS IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, AND JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.

This research, as an incorporated comparison, explores the contemporary digital discursive practices and frames of Blackness in municipal social media, situated within the transnational Black feminist social matrix, in the of City of Johannesburg, South Africa, of Chicago, Illinois. This comparison is achieved through applying integrated qualitative mixed-methods, including digital ethnography, grounded theory, social change discourse analysis, and frame analysis to four months of Twitter data collected from the respective cities between 2019 and 2020.

Two primary research findings included, first, six latent frames used to enact Blackness for this time period. Four frames spanned both geographies: Black Achievement/Excellence, Personal Identity, Syndemic Segregation, and the Racialized Palimpsest City. The Opposition frame was enacted only in the City of Chicago, while the Problematization frame was present only in the City of Johannesburg. Second, with regard to using social media as a tool of broad resident engagement absent historical “isms,” contradictions exist in the discursive practices meant to democratize resident engagement and existing hegemonic structures of control.

BLACK RESIDENT ENGAGEMENT AND CONTESTATION OF MUNICIPAL DIGITAL DISCURSIVE AND FRAMING PRACTICES OF BLACKNESS IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, AND JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.

This research centers on Black users connected to the verified Twitter accounts of Chicago, Illinois and Johannesburg, South Africa, situated within a novel triadic analytical framework between urban actors, specifically Black residents, Black networks (community), and local municipalities. 

This work connects to existing research which used social change and discourse analysis and frame analysis to identify, through a Black feminist socio-historical social matrix, six latent frames of Blackness employed by these municipalities in their contemporary digital discourse: Racialized Palimpsest, Syndemic Segregation Interventions, Black Achievement/Excellence, Problematization, Opposition, Personal Identity.  As an incorporated comparison, leveraging qualitative and quantitative analyses, this study uses Twitter data collected between December 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, specifically the 84 tweets which constituted the previously established frames, to explore the engagement modes of Black users in direct digital discourses with municipalities, and their respective social networks, with regard to topics and frames of Blackness. 

The primary findings which emerged from this research were, first, a pattern of racially differentiated engagements with regard to the latent frame, and their constituting tweets, based on the frame’s dimensions of constitution and enactment goals.  Second, in relation to their individual user networks, these racialized responses demonstrated the influence these users had as curators and influencers when transmitting municipal tweets into digital Black subalterns.n December 1, 2019 and March 30, 2020.  

Necessary and sufficient: Ethnography of Syndemic Segregation in Johannesburg, South Africa

This work uses narrative ethnography to center the lived experiences of residents living in communities and buildings through the Central Business District of Johannesburg, and beyond, who were connected to the Inner-City Resource Centre, a community-based NGO. These narratives were collected between September 2019 and January 2020. Through situating these lived experiences within an intersectional Black feminist theory, a mismatch between residents lived experience and municipal policy initiatives emerges.  Connecting this mismatch to the concept of syndemic segregation, framework of interwoven, and additively negative outcomes rooted in historical racializations, a new institutional vocabulary, which can better reflect individual intersectionalities with and single-axis policy reforms.


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.

%d bloggers like this: