5 to 7pm
Appraisal Literatures: Reading Race on the Mid-Century Block
Adrienne Brown, University of Chicago
The story of residential segregation in the mid-century U.S. has typically revolved around red-lining, racial covenants, and violence. Undergirding these robust mechanisms of exclusion, however, were more speculative acts of racial appraisal based on conjecture, instinct, and self-conscious empiricism. While literary fiction largely characterized residential segregation as a series of interpersonal dramas involving clear-cut acts of discrimination, in switching our attention from fictions of segregation to what I’m calling narratives of appraisal-found in valuation textbooks, blockbusters’ confessions, and the urban empiricism of Jane Jacobs and Gwendolyn Brooks-we find the act of reading race rather than the responses to it taking precedence through its framing as a tentative process requiring deliberation and instruction.
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