Racialization and Racism

Grammars of reckoning: Redressing racial regimes of property

This paper contributes to emerging conversations at the intersection of critical geographies of property and race by centering political grammars of reckoning and redress. Grammar is more than syntax. It is about structures of language, including the ways that words are arranged, inflected, and imbued with meaning. A focus on political grammars elucidates the rules of reference that make private property appear as a self-evident thing (e.g., the land itself) that one can own. Moreover, it orients discussions of land and property toward the kinds of reparative work necessary to dismantle and move beyond racial regimes of ownership. The paper focuses on North America, specifically the United States, while drawing on salient theoretical insights from a range of scholars and cases. It is oriented around an examination of three modes of reckoning—truth and reconciliation; state redress; and reparations as the reconstruction of society—that overlap but also have distinct meanings with different assumptions about accountability and responsibility and visions for the future. I analyze the political grammars that subtend each and consider how they call us as scholars and people to the urgent task of building more just social worlds.

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Volume 40 Issue 2

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