Wendy Thompson Taiwo
Current Research Activities
My current research is focused on the following three areas: black migration, black motherhood and mothering, and black self-making. My questions lie at the intersections of all three areas: how have black migrants crafted a new sense of self in response to the social and economic conditions related to migration and settlement in racially hostile or xenophobic spaces, how has the practice of black mothering/othermothering facilitated the growth, development, and activism of black migrant communities and the next generation, and how is self-making a core strategy for migrants positioning themselves in a new society and expressing agency, worth, belonging. My book project specifically examines the ways that black migrants from the South and their descendants staged (and continue to stage) belonging and resistance in the Bay Area by using the methods and practices of photography and albumkeeping, homemaking, disruption and refusal, and the language of ecological disaster to resist marginalization, displacement, and erasure.
Research Connections to Current Events
My book project aims to address the broader social issues related to racial gaps in housing, wealth, policing, citizenship, and belonging by examining it on a micro level in several cities in the Bay Area. Book chapters specifically connects the threads between the Second Great Migration and urban housing exclusion in the Bay Area, the struggle for black homeownership and its relationship to articulations of American middle class belonging, ongoing urban renewal and black displacement, and resistance as staged through public acts of refusal and media op eds. Threads connected to mothering have allowed me to explore my own personal experiences with pregnancy, birth, and mothering outside of the womb and the precarity and joy that surround the real life and popular narratives of black motherhood in our society. Furthermore, race, migration, and mobility continue to be central themes in American political culture and allow me a more complex lens through which to look at black life in a supposedly progressive region and state.
Personal Connections to Research
My own family history which is connected to the Second Great Migration and the development of black political and cultural life in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area led me to pursue my current book project. My interest was further driven by the number of African American students who have taken my classes and expressed little to no knowledge about their family histories in California or prior (migration and the South). This has led me to query through my research what has led to the breakdown of black California family histories. A book that has inspired the shape of my own is Brandi Thompson Summers', Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City, which examines displacement and black representative presence in a once-chocolate city. This text speaks the same scholarly and analytical "language" as by own book which uses a myriad of sources to collectively take the temperature of black life currently in the Bay Area. I also model my book after Saidiya V. Hartman's and Christina Sharpe's work and, more importantly, their tendency to apply mixed methodologies (archival finds, critical fabulation, personal narrative) in order to grasp the textured layers of black migrant lives and their aftermath.
Second Great Migration, black mothering/motherhood, Black Bay Area, Black California, mixed methods, family history