MAPPING THE “SOCIAL FIELD OF WHITENESS”: WHITE RACISM AS HABITUS IN THE CITY WHERE HISTORY LIVES

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Abstract

In contemporary studies of blackness, scholars are responding to the need for more nuanced representations of everyday life to illustrate the commonalities and divergence of negotiating whiteness. In this essay, I situate the Gullah/Geechee within ongoing struggles for accurate representation and access to power across the contested landscapes of the “New South.” More specifically, I interrogate three economic strategies of urban development—urban renewal, historic preservation, and heritage tourism—as contemporary manifestations of white racism. I begin by defining the Gullah/Geechee as a cultural group within their own situated predicament. Next, I operationalize “the social field of whiteness” and “white racism as habitus” as tools for the subsequent discussion. Finally, I zoom in for a closer look at Charleston, South Carolina, as a local site of this increasingly global process. Throughout this essay, I demonstrate how these particular strategies of urban development serve as “security checkpoints” in the maintenance of race-based inequality across the broader “social field of whiteness.”

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