Racialization and Racism

Urban Social Hauntings: Disappearing Gravestone Murals in Gentrifying Brooklyn

This article concerns the disappearance of gravestone (or “rest in peace”) murals in gentrifying Brooklyn, New York. Social hauntings reveal the unresolved violence of Black disposability and dispossession, as it manifests in the urban landscape in periods of urban decline and gentrification; gravestone murals are forms of “wake work” that attend to social haunting, accounting for Black life and death in urban place. This article first considers the wake work of gravestone murals, that they are memorials, archives of collective memory, spaces of worldmaking, and resistance to anti-Black violence. Because gravestone murals illustrate how Black people produce meaning in the urban landscape, they are also forms of Black spatial production. The article then explores the emergence of newer, stylized murals as aesthetic commodities that bring social and economic value to urban space, while commodifying Black life and death. The disappearance of gravestone murals, a visual record of the urban crisis, indicates the transformation of Black urban space in the 21st century.

more articles from

Volume 40 Issue 1

Explore our Topics

Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.