Visiting Fellow Seminar

Segregation, Security, and Surveillance: Lessons on “Local” and “Global” from a Divided City, 2017

The Wits City Institute hosted a presentation by Jean Allman, Director of the Center for the Humanities and co-principal researcher on its Divided City Initiative, an Andrew W. Mellon-funded project in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.

Wednesday 16 August 2017 / 13.00-14.00 Robert Sobukwe Block, Second Floor, Room 248,

Jean Allman, who is the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Director at the Centre for the Humanities Washington University, runs the Divided Cities programme in St Louis which is a part of the Mellon Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities initiative. In 2014, the Center for the Humanities and the School of Architecture and Urban Design at Washington University in St. Louis was awarded substantial funding for their joint Divided City Initiative, an interdisciplinary project aimed at exploring separation and segregation in cities across time and space. Only a few weeks after the award was announced, an eighteen-year old African American youth, Michael Brown, was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri – a suburb not far from the university campus –  by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.  In the weeks and months that followed, Ferguson and the wider St. Louis community were the focus of international attention as a sustained militant uprising on the streets of the city was met by a militarized police response that had few precedents locally or nationally.  Now, three years later,  the uprising has ended, Darren Wilson walks free, the tanks and riot-ready police are back in their barracks, and construction has begun, in one of St. Louis’s most impoverished and underserved neighborhoods, on a 1.7 billion dollar, 40 hectare National Geospatial Security Agency site that will collect, analyze and distribute geospatial intelligence in support of US national security.

In this presentation, Allman, one of two primary investigators for the original Washington University project, reflected on the three years since Michael Brown’s murder:  on the meanings of ‘local’ and ‘global’ and on the politics of university/community engagement and memorialisation. Allman’s presentation at Wits was preceded by a study tour of Johannesburg’s sites of memorialisation with Noëleen Murray and WCI Fellows and enabling her to reflected on the idea of divided cities – across Johannesburg and St Louis. Structured around the themes Segregation, Security and Surveillance Allman’s experiences in the project provided the opportunity for insightful and broad based discussion chaired by Noëleen Murray with students, academics, and urban planners from the audience.