The emotions of racialization: examining the intersection of emotion, race, and landscape through public housing in the United States

Hostetter, Ellen

"This paper analyzes racialization—the social construction of ‘race’ as a normative dimension of everyday life—and shows that emotion plays a central role in this process. My focus is the representation of post-World War II public housing, a key site of white-black racialization in the United States. Representations of filth, decay, and danger separate African-Americans from mainstream, white society as disturbingly different. I argue that this particular representation carries heavy emotional value, specifically that of disgust and fear. It is disgust and fear that racializes this landscape, giving meaning and force to an ideology that views African–Americans as inherently inferior to whites. Policy is framed by these emotions, impacting decisions made about public housing. I explore these ideas through contemporary representations of public housing by federal officials in Washington, DC and by newspapers in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as the federal program HOPE VI."