Appointed As

Center for Digital Humanities

Program

Kavita Kulkarniprogram

Host

Princeton University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

Dissertation Abstract

"Feeling Fort Greene: On Spatial Mediations of Race, Affect, and Collective Being"

This dissertation explores race, social difference, and urban identity from the purview of media and cultural studies, critical geography, and Black studies, situating these constructs within a social ecology of urban space, embodied cultural practice, law and governance, and visual, textual, and sonic media. It builds off Henri Lefebvre’s thesis that the production of space is a production of the social, and, as a field of practice and struggle, determines the reproduction of both. As a situated analysis, this dissertation studies the production of space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a cross-class, historically Black neighborhood since postwar white flight, which was home to a nexus of art and cultural production in the 1980s and 1990s, and which underwent what geographer Neil Smith termed “third-wave gentrification” in the early twenty-first century. In examining these processes of state, capital, and culture, this dissertation considers in particular the affective registers of space—that is, how affects and affectability as a human capacity are mediated through the production of space—in the transformation of the use value of Black space into surplus and exchange value. Assuming an archaeological approach to this transformation of Fort Greene, this dissertation surveys and excavates the mediation of affects at three moments in the neighborhood’s history: in the production of New York City’s postwar housing crisis via news media, the social sciences, and state policy; in the production of the weekly Sunday Tea Party, an alternative space of performance art and social dance in Fort Greene in the 1990s; and in the production of the Soul Summit Music Festival, a free and outdoor house music dance party that has taken place in Fort Greene Park since 2001. This dissertation asks, what is the significance of the serial gathering in the flesh of those whose social status as juridical individuals in the United States has been primarily assessed within the regime of liberalism as greater or lesser access to geographic and social mobility? Ultimately, this dissertation argues that while the powers of state and capital center the solution to the problems of racialized urbanism on the right to mobility, an alternative imaginary that exceeds these machinations of liberalism comes from underground culture: the production of the space to mobilize. As a testament to the affective labor dispensed in the production of underground spaces of art and culture, and its concomitant reproduction of a “misfit sociality” outside the strictures of political and civil society, this dissertation argues that these sites provide not only an outlet for creative expression, but also an architecture for the practice and mobilization of joy, and for access to forms of love-based care and mentorship outside the traditional kinship relations of the heteronormative family unit.