Settler Colonialism: Gentrification, Incarceration, and Environmental Injustice

Increasingly, scholars across various disciplines acknowledge the ways that forms of colonialism continue to shape inequalities today. In this co-authored book project, we use a binocular colonial lens – drawing on internal colonization theories and settler colonial theories – to unearth the way that a common logic of erasure under-girds gentrification, incarceration, and environmental injustice(s). Our data draws on three contemporary cases in Michigan: gentrification/revitalization efforts in Detroit, ongoing lead poisoning of Flint’s water, and mass incarceration across the state.

This book argues that the continued process of racialization (the articulation of a separate and inferior group of people) is used to justify mechanisms of erasure that are characteristic of settler colonialism – including containment, displacement, assimilation, extraction, and elimination. This book’s contributions lie in conceptually linking these pressing issues for racial minorities in the United States, both topically and historically, demonstrating that they can all be understood as manifestations of ongoing settler coloniality and erasure, as well as identifying potentially robust grounds for de-colonial struggle.

An article from this book manuscript, “Beyond Gentrification’s Displacement: Using Settler Colonial Theory to Link Race, Property, and Erasure,” is in preparation to submit to DuBois Review. This article argues for a reconsideration of the role of race in gentrification’s displacement. We argue that race is not just an unfortunate side effect of economic or cultural processes of displacement that take place with “revitalization.” Instead, we argue that displacement is a sanitized obfuscation of settler colonialism’s  erasure, which threatens not just marginalized peoples’ access to a revitalizing space, but their survival.