Research Spotlight: Gentrification in Saint Paul, Minnesota

I am a PhD candidate in Geography at FSU. My research has taken a journey on its own. At Syracuse University, where I completed my Masters in Geography, my work was situated in the South Asian context, in rural South India to be exact.

In my Masters work, I was studying the impact of corporate led industrial development in the South Indian state of Kerala on pollution governance and the lived experiences of industrial pollution among marginalized caste women. My work drew on both ethnography, participant observation and archival work with close attention to the ways in which class, gender and caste shape experiences of pollution and collective spatial acts of resistance. The Black Lives Matter movement and the protests for racial justice in 2015 and onward deeply inspired and taught me much about the history and the continuities of anti-Black and racialized violence in the US. My experiences participating in some of these protests in New York and later in Florida inspired me toward my current project.

In 2018, I taught a course in Environmental Justice at the Department of Geography in Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. As part of this course, I took my students to Saint Paul where we met elders, activists and organizers in Rondo and learned about the I94 highway and the devastating impact it had on this historic Black community. The relationships I made there with elders and activists in Rondo inspired me to write about this community as part of my doctoral work.

My doctoral research is rooted in the historic black neighborhood of Rondo in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It draws on oral histories, archival work and participant observation to understand the reproduction of counter memory and place-making in the context of a history of being displaced by the construction of the I94 highway in 1960s and newer forms of gentrification. 

I will be drawing on oral histories as a central method along with informal interviews, participant observation and visual documentation in the community. As part of the project, I also involve and include the voices and perspectives of community elders, activists and city officials to understand the ways in which Rondo is remembered and lived for the present and the future.

Parvathy Binoy | Florida State University -

Parvathy Binoy is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at Florida State University. Her research interests include environmental justice, social movements, South-Asian modernity, and feminist theory. You can learn more about Parvathy here.

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