Fighting for the farms: Structural violence, race and resistance in Washington, D.C.
The goal of this dissertation research is to understand structural violence in the Barry Farm Public Dwellings, a public housing community in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC). The dissertation argues that a local urban renewal program called the New Communities Initiative (NCI), which is intended to end racialized urban ghettos in the District of Columbia, is a form of structural violence that instead continues inequality. The dissertation proposes an original explanatory framework based on a sociospatial binary of Western Superior Culture (WSC) and Non-Western Inferior Others/Truly “Truly” Disadvantaged Others (NWIO/TTDO). Poor African Americans represent the NWIO and the TTDO, its subset of increasingly vulnerable public housing residents. The dissertation argues that the elite WSC group dispenses structural violence to manufacture the NWIO/TTDO as an inferior status group and their environment as an African American urban ghetto (AAUG) and to maintain the NWIO/TTDO’s function as an antithetical reference group. I examine the Farms community both historically and in the contemporary moment to (1) discover structural violence’s real but hidden perpetrators; (2) to demystify structural violence by making sense of its perpetrators’ motivations; and (3) to understand the nature of its victims’ agency. Between 2007 and 2013, I utilized windshield tours, participant observation, interviews, archival research, and oral histories to collect ethnographic data. This dissertation’s analysis suggests that continuous structural violence has produced a fragmented community where history and cultural heritage are being lost and collective agency is difficult to form. The dissertation focuses on the lived experiences and mobilization efforts of Farms Public Dwellings community residents that distort and threaten the binary relationship between the WSC and the NWIO/TTDO. I argue that the NCI program is intended to maintain the WSC–NWIO/TTDO binary by relocating the NWIO/TTDO spatially. This spatial reformation represents the expansion of privilege space and the ritualization of White supremacy. By ritualization, I mean White Supremacy on the one hand manufactures AAUG as problem communities and then assume the sole responsibility to reform and displace these problem sites to confirm their own superior status. To counterbalance the hegemonic narratives that accompany and justify the Farms Public Dwellings community residents’ displacement, the dissertation documents residents’ pain, adaptive and agentive struggles. As the Farms residents struggle to survive, this dissertation intends to amplify their cries for justice and their demands for a quality of life befitting citizens of the District of Columbia and America.