Racialization and Racism

Rethinking “Disinvestment”: Historical geographies of predatory property relations on Chicago’s South Side

As vacancy in Rust Belt cities becomes a focal point of planning and policy efforts, Chicago planners and private institutions attribute it to “disinvestment” and seek to remove barriers to real estate investment in order to unlock the market’s purported ability to bring land to “productive use.” Drawing on findings from an analysis of nearly 10,000 postwar property records in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, this article demonstrates that vacancy stems not from disinvestment but from predatory and hyperextractive investments in housing that derive economic feasibility and legal sanction from property’s historical articulation with race. I argue that racial regimes of ownership are endemic to the operation of real estate markets and function as central modalities for the appropriation of ground rent. As an analytical lens into the political economy of land, racial regimes of ownership expand urban geographers’ capacity to address the mechanisms that mobilize difference to accommodate capital’s circulation and, more broadly, to account for the racial logics that configure the terrain of contemporary land struggles.

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Volume 40 Issue 2

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