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Mellon Forum // Stigma, public space, and the symbolic value of race in Cartagena, Colombia

Melissa Valle, Princeton-Mellon, SPIA; Frederick Wherry, Sociology

February 14, 2023 · 12:00 pm1:15 pm · School of Architecture

Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

Institutions rely not only on seemingly valorizing culture- and ethnicity-led development strategies, but ones simultaneously rooted in reifying and damaging narratives and visual depictions of racialized groups and geographies. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork, content analysis, and iconography, Valle examines how social actors in the rapidly changing urban locale of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, evaluate, shift, and legitimate racial value. Through the narratives and imagery of development stakeholders attempting to shift regional stigma, and those of news and social media outlets who justify both the removal and “formalization” of informal street vendors, we see how visual culture and aesthetics affect and reflect how people understand racial value. The racial hierarchy is maintained symbolically through racial representation by the media and government who shape how the broader society understands the roles and viability of Black people in the labor market, and materially through public policy decisions that govern public space and determine the access that primarily Black street vendors have to the physical spaces of the city where they seek to informally earn their livelihoods.

This event is kindly sponsored by the Humanities Council.

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