Our discussion on how space and place are constructed and how these spaces and places are given meaning and an identity has me questioning the extent to which capitalism shapes our conception of the environment. Reflect back to three weeks ago to when we discussed W. E. B. DuBois’s photograph album. Within the album there were numerous photographs of African-Americans walking along the side of the street (often depicted from a distance) in urban ghettoized neighbourhoods in the American South at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century. Now refer to Kelley’s account of the racialized space of the transportation system in Jim Crow South. The “coloured section” of busses and the refusal of African Americans onto public transit in more extreme instances demarcated appropriate spaces and places for coloured bodies. If race was, and arguably still is, such a critical factor in the construction of spaces and places, is a Marxist approach towards urban city spaces (as is the case with Benjamin and his argument that the city is a necessity in understanding capitalism’s vehement effects on concepts of anonymity, identity, and the construction of a ‘mass identity’) still as useful as originally led to believe? Are these instances of space as it is constructed for those who have been alienated by capitalism? In what ways do these social constructions play a role in constructing spaces and, in turn, constructing our identities as we situate ourselves with a particular environment?
I also believe there is something to be said of the nostalgia that comes from looking at the Georgia Negro Albums as a means of espousing nostalgia for those who come across it, read it, and even write a book focusing on it–is the album itself a space that transforms, or at least reifies, our identities by making our race, our class, our gender, and our sense of the past ever more a present in our consciousness?