Visualizing Toxic Subjects

Politics of Hate in Southern California

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The Rise Above Movement Protesting

Caption: An image of members from the Rise Above Movement (RAM) protesting. They are promoting anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric.

This image comes from a screenshot of a YouTube video uploaded by the Rise Above Movement (RAM). RAM is based in Huntington Beach, California. They are a pro-Trump white nationalist group that practices hand-to-hand combat. They have made national news as of late for being involved in and convicted of hate crimes performed at the famous Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. They are thought to be one of the catalysts for the rise of hate crimes in California, particularly Orange County.

My project attempts to find what conditions make southern California a place for a group like this to not only rise but to thrive and grow in numbers. I chose this image as representative of the group's violent nature and as what the conditions southern California could present in the making of a political environment gone awry. In ethnographically assessing these conditions, it is hopeful one can better understand how to avoid such hate and most certainly keep it out of politics. 

Alice Chen: Exposure ... to information

The author does a great job of culminating their argument on the relationship between the "invisibility" of lead poisoning and the dearth of available data and information access that those...Read more

Rachel Lee: It's Elemental

The image communicates the authority and persuasive rhetoric of corporate sponsored remediation science: "cinnabar" circulates in the contemporary U.S. (or for my age group, at least) as the name...Read more

Alice Chen: Hegemonic Heteronormativity

The juxtaposition of these two images are fantastic and really serve to evoke an emotional response from the viewer. However, the bottom image is quite wordy and really difficult to read. I wonder...Read more

Mapping Detention and Toxicity

Mapping Detention and Toxicity
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Adelanto 360

MAPPING DETENTION AND TOXICITY 2

This screenshot is of a virtual 360 tour of the detention center. This virtual tour is important for various reasons. To begin it is a tool by the facility to show the facility to the public as a human space. As online tourists click through the various rooms of the facility, it becomes evident that the facility is being portrayed as "humane". It also becomes obvious the missing bodies in the pictures in the tour, which is an attempt to make the facility a neutral space. 

george air force base

Mapping Detention and Toxicity 3

This map pinpoints the housing areas of the base as well as noted sites of stored waste. The article that used the image discussed various reported miscarriages, childhood cancer and other health hazards believed to have been caused by the toxins from the base. While the base has now been closed, there has been no permanent clean up of the toxins. Given that this base is near the Adelanto Detention Center, the accusations of toxic waste of the military base is important to consider when thinking through the health hazards that people in the area and in the detention center may be continuing to experince. 

Constructing Heteronormative Urban Spatialities

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Politicizing Urban Aesthetics

In the latter part of the nineteenth-century, representations of poor people and their neighborhoods were complemented with the emergence of documentary photography. The integration of photographic images in sociological research developed a knowledge system premised on the belief that photographs could not lie and that cameras captured reality and presented subjects in a truthful manner (Chronopoulos 2014, 209).  For theorists seeking universal force-causing claims to explain social phenomena, housing, and neighborhood conditions, illiteracy and poverty became omens of gender and sexual pathologies that could topple the rational order of cities and even the nation (Ferguson 2004, 77).

The politicization of aesthetics in the closing decades of the 19th century proved to be a powerful discursive tool for Progressives who sought to eliminate perceived social disorders engendered by industrial urbanization vis-à-vis the wholesale spatial reconfiguration of cities. As Ferguson states,

Postulating sexuality as a general and diffuse causality provides an example of how sexuality came to mean much more than eros, “sexual instincts”, and practices but came to signify a host of apparently “nonsexual” factors (Ferguson 2004, 77).

Published in 1950, the first comprehensive plan proposed for Washington, D.C. identified Southwest as a “problem area” suffering from urban “blight” in need of redevelopment (NCPPC). At the end of 1952, with the passage of the first urban renewal plan for a Southwest Project Area B[i], urban renewal moved from the planning stage to the action stage, triggering a wave of racial dramas in cities across the U.S. Located in the 700-block area of 4½ Street SW, Frank’s Department Store was well within the 76-acre boundary of Project Area B. Faced with the prospect of losing his business Mr. Morris and neighboring business owner Goldie Schneider refused to sell to the RLA. To prevent the government from taking their properties by eminent domain Mr. Morris and Mrs. Schneider filed suit in federal district court, challenging the constitutionality of the DCRA. They argued the government’s ability and scope to take and transfer private property to private developers as part of a project to eliminate “blight” does not constitute a legitimate “public use.” Rather, the taking of private property from one business owner for the benefit of another business owner under eminent domain amounts to an unconstitutional taking, thus violating the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Contending their businesses were not “blighted” (Fig. 3), claimants further argued that since the DCRA had not defined the term “blight,” the RLA could not apply this ambiguous term to all of Project Area B. That said, however, the circuit court dismissed their allegations and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the decision and reaffirmed the constitutionality of the DCRA. The conflict between Morris, Schneider, and the RLA highlights a critical tension in American jurisprudence during the political economy of the early Cold War: the struggle to balance an image of the U.S. as a formally liberal-capitalist nation against rationalizations for sustained maldistribution along social divides. It also illuminates an epistemic lag between the American judicial system and sociocultural developments.


[i] Southwest Washington Urban Renewal Area – bounded by Independence Avenue, Washington Avenue, South Capitol Street, Canal Street, P Street, Maine Avenue and Washington Channel, Fourteenth Street, D Street, & Twelfth Street – for more info. refer to the HABS Report by the National Parks Service.

Neoliberal Specifics of Dominance in Washington, DC

Since its initial founding by the Residence Act of 1790, the urban geography of Washington, DC, has long become the battleground wherein the “limits of citizenship are manifest” (Carr et al. 2009: 1964). In 2006, the DC, Council enacted a Prostitution Free Zone (PFZ) code, wherein a city where prostitution has long been formally criminalized since the Mann Act of 1910, the new law constituted what may be viewed as geographies of ‘zero-tolerance’ attitude towards sex work. Under the auspices of ‘quality of life’ controls (Mitchell 2003), the PFZ ordinance (Fig. 1) vested the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) substantial discretionary powers to determine and declare a radius of blocks off-limits to already illegal prostitution or sex-work related activities for time periods lasting up to ten consecutive days (Edelman 2011: 849). Suspects ordered to disperse by the police for alleged prostitution or prostitution-related activities were “subject to a literal banishment – an evicted individual could not return to that area for the duration of the implemented zone” (Brunn 2018: 108). Refusal to disperse legitimated arrests, humiliation, and even harassment by police officers. As Alison Brunn agued: “in terms of governance and management of urban space, the figure of the sex worker was seen as a hallmark of ‘urban blight,’ whose existence in public space served as a stand-in for the existence of other stigmatized or illegal activities, such as drug use and violent crime” (2018: 107). To this end, the trans body, specifically, black trans and trans-of-color bodies were pathologized and publicized as toxifying agents in urban spaces that must be eliminated in order to mitigate geographies of ‘risk.’ 

Chae Yoo: Mapping Burn Pits

This image is ethnographically intriguing because it demonstrates what sort of visual tools the informants utilize to delineate their own experiences of risk and vulnerability. I appreciated this...Read more

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