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Geospatial Forum with Profs. Sara Queen and Tania Allen (NC State)

September 23 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Oppressive Infrastructures: Mapping Racism and Inequity in the Built Environment

Summary: This Forum presentation features research produced in DIY Cartography, a graduate-level research seminar at NC State’s College of Design from Spring 2022 led by Professors Tania Allen and Sara Queen, which examines the history of inequity in our built environment. The featured maps highlight the structural disparities of today overlaid with patterns of confederate memorial erection to expose a palimpsest of institutionalized and systemic racism.

The 2015 Charleston murder of 9 African American church members by a white supremacict initiated a public reckoning with the legacy of infrastructures that perpetuate racism across America. As the violence continued, most notably with the death of George Floyd, many asked fundamental questions about their own complicity in systems of oppression that fed Floyd’s murder and too many before. As part of this reckoning, there were loud calls for dismantling symbols of violence fundamental in the 2,474 confederate memorials scattered across the landscape. For us as designers purporting to create spaces “for all”, the memorials were an entrypoint to ask questions about how public spaces can be both inviting and hostile. Using data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, we began mapping attributes of the memorials, then broadened the study to include socio-economic, political, and environmental structures that support systemic racism through GIS, RAWGraphs, Tableau, and Adobe softwares. While confederate memorials are one of the most overt symbols, structures of oppression built into the fabric of this country run much deeper. The maps in this presentation overlay systemic disparities of today with patterns of memorial erection to expose a palimpsest of institutionalized racism beginning in structures of slavery, reformulated through the segregationalist policies of the Jim Crow Era, and reinforced by the reactionary legislation and social practices spanning the Civil Rights Era to today. With these insights, this collection of maps overlays memorial data with diverse measures of physical, societal, political, and economic structures that manifest and support systemic racism and ongoing oppression with aims to spark discussion and initiate change.

About the speakers: Sara Queen is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at NC State. Tania Allen is an Associate Professor in NC State’s Department of Art + Design. Sara and Tania are co-directors of the design research group co-lab, which focuses on critical mapping as a participatory design research tool.


September 23
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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