Black Lives Next Door
Black Lives Next Door is a collection of work performed by undergraduate and graduate students with their faculty mentors. In the Summer of 2021 our work on the original project called Black Lives Next Door: George Mason University in an Age of Disparity and Opportunity which allowed our students to explore the interconnected roots of racism with the development of our university. A new course in the Spring of 2023 called Black Lives Next Door: Geographies of Inequity provided an opportunity for the faculty of CML to engage with a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students to utilize a range of
methodologies that help students explore silences of the past to expose long neglected histories in order to provide a rich understanding of Black lives next door.
The Center for Mason actively engages with our community to develop partnerships and encourage new research and scholarship focused on local and regional history. The partnerships include site such as “100 Years of Black Falls Church” the Thomas Balch Library, and a new partnership with Fairfax County Government.
“As the community changed we were not part of the change… The worst thing that can
happen is to be erased”
– Fairfax Community Member
Questions Guiding Our Research
How did segregation affect George Mason College and its surrounding communities and public schools?
Were all citizens welcome to learn and teach at the new college in Fairfax?
To what extent did civil rights movements mobilize students and faculty, and their neighbors?
Was anti-racist activism a part of campus life?
Our Methodology: Affective Historical Praxis
According to some of our Mason students, the prevailing pedagogies do not meet their educational needs as emerging scholars. Students are interested in ethical and justice-centered intellectual work. As a response to their concerns, we have developed theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical frameworks to facilitate the advancement of ethical scholarship that supports positive community engagement. The Center for Mason Legacies provides students, faculty across disciplines, librarians, scholars of digital humanities, and community members with a chance to discover new creative ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting local stories about the past and its entanglement with our present. Through original scholarship that seeks to acknowledge, address, and repair historical harm, we help students produce fresh insights that present impactful scholarship that tells stories of dispossessed and silenced communities through collaborative fieldwork. Guiding CML’s work is an interdisciplinary research practice, we have labeled an affective historical praxis, which is conceptualized as a methodological framework for critically caring for historically oppressed populations in our research and teaching. An affective approach refuses to present dispassionate narratives, ignore agency, or dismiss the deleterious consequences caused by systemic inequality. By focusing on affect, our methodology empowers students to understand emotion as a powerful transgressive tool that can be used to engage in ethical and justice-oriented scholarship.
The Center for Mason Legacies reimagines how to critically study the past and its afterlives of slavery and colonization. In the classroom and in the archives, we consider the myriad ways systems of oppression intersect rendering the lives of those we study simultaneously precarious and invisible. Student researchers are empowered to incorporate a range of interdisciplinary tools of investigation to deepen historical storytelling and one essential question frames each stage of student discovery: How do our inquiries critically care for Black life? Four antiracist methodologies—geospatial visual technology, Black digital humanities, critical library studies, and Black feminist praxis—informed the outcomes. Our pedagogical approach benefits from Black digital humanities and Black feminist ethics of care.
The multivalent methodology we deploy rests on four principles. First, we believe that justice-centered teaching and learning is a dynamic process with no predetermined endpoint. Second, there is a serious need for an interpersonal approach that encourages researchers, educators, and socially conscious activists to sustain a deeper conversation with one another. Third, the opportunities we intend to provide will equip students with skills enabling them to identify how racial inequity jeopardizes marginalized people enduring de jure and de facto discrimination. Finally, our methodology reconceives the idea of redress and repair as an outcome of historical inquiry that reconstructs suppressed pasts. In promoting these four principles, we urge our students to challenge master narratives, interrogate the veracity of the archives, and map geographies of accommodation and resistance. The Center for Mason Legacies advocates for local learning opportunities that widen avenues of interdisciplinary innovation and justice-centered teaching.
Key Inspirational Scholars include Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power; Christina Sharpe, In the Wake; Saidya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection; “Venus in Two Acts,” Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments Black Digital Humanities; Kim Gallon, “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” Black Geography/Black Feminist Geography; Stephanie Camp, Closer to Freedom; Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, Black Geographies and the Politics of Place; Katherine McKittrick, “On Plantations, Prisons, and a Black Sense of Place;” Tiffany King, The Black Shoals, Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives.