Aoki Seminar Series Features Dr. Rios Discussing Black Lives and Spatial Matters

Dr. Jodi Rios

Trained in architecture, Dr. Jodi Rios discussed her book Black Lives and Spatial Matters: Policing Blackness and Practicing Freedom in Suburban St. Louis, Cornell University Press, 2020. The book is a call to reconsider the epistemic violence that is committed when scholars, policymakers, and the general public continue to frame Black precarity as just another racial, cultural, or ethnic conflict that can be solved solely through legal, political, or economic means. Dr. Rios argues that the historical and material production of blackness-as-risk is foundational to the historical and material construction of our society and certainly foundational to the construction and experience of metropolitan space. She also considers how an ethics of lived blackness—living fully and visibly in the face of forces intended to dehumanize and erase—can create a powerful counter point to blackness-as-risk.

Using a transdisciplinary methodology, Black Lives and Spatial Matters studies cultural, institutional, and spatial politics of race in North St. Louis County, Missouri, as a set of practices that are intimately connected to each other and to global histories of race and race-making. As such, the book adds important insight into the racialization of metropolitan space and people in the United States. The arguments presented in this book draw from fifteen years of engaged research in North St. Louis County and rely on multiple disciplinary perspectives and local knowledge in order to study relationships between interconnected practices and phenomena.

Dr. Rios, who is committed to activism, discussed her book, which with recent events of police misconduct directed toward African Americans in the news, had the full house audience spellbound. It was a great discussion and got faculty, students, faculty, staff, and community members thinking.