Dissertation Research

The Urban Settler Colonial Present: Logics of Spatial Claiming on the Niagara Frontier

Abstract: Space claiming is one of the core social processes that determine how cities and surrounding urban areas develop over time. Similarly, the creation of the United States through genocidal invasion was also intimately shaped by the spatial claims being made by White settlers against the longstanding sovereignties of Indigenous peoples. Rarely is it considered whether settler spatial claims still have an impact on how we today make claims to these same physical spaces, or how those systems of claiming impact how patterns of segregation and inequality are maintained in US cities. This dissertation seeks to explore this connection between the logic of settler colonial invasion and modern logics of spatial claims through three case studies conducted in the rustbelt city of Buffalo, New York. Using interviews with block club members, social media data about the preservation of a local Christopher Columbus statue, and visual textual analyses of local ethnic history museums and historical markers, this dissertation offers new ways to conceptualize what Lorenzo Veracini calls the “settler colonial present”. In addition, by applying the concepts and theories of settler colonial studies and critical indigenous studies to a cityscape shaped by anti-Black racial segregation efforts, this project also seeks to begin to build theoretical connections between ongoing anti-Black and anti-Indigenous oppression.