Temporal analysis of displacement: Racial capitalism and settler colonial urban space

Jessica Ty Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Researchers have often called for micro-scale analyses of residential displacement, and more recently, for work that acknowledges the importance of temporal and spatial relationships that influence current iterations of residential displacement. Relying on grounding in urban political ecology, and work in gentrification, racial capitalism, and settler colonialism, this paper highlights the historic relationships between development interests and resident groups in Gowanus, Brooklyn to examine how historic context shapes the development of displacement patterns. Relying on historic texts and images found in New York City archives, this work documents the developmental history of Gowanus, which has held a prominent place in New York City history since before the 1600s, when European settler colonists began to create farms and mills based on existing local knowledge of the landscape held by the Canarsee, a Munsee speaking Indigenous group of Lenape people who lived in the area now known as Gowanus. Over time, several groups of developers and industrialists dominated this space by morphing the tidal wetland into an industrial waterway, capitalizing on the waterfront as a commodity. Most recently, residents who can afford luxury rentals with views of waterfront have moved into the area. At the same time, city plans and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are addressing the legacy of contamination in the area. The varying access and attitude toward the canal over time continues to impact the development in the area, with some people being forced out, while others are moving in. This work builds on the growing literature on residential displacement to argue that even with embedded silence in archival materials, investigating the long-range historic patterns of development can be a useful method for understanding current iterations of development and displacement, including the most recent shift towards high-end waterfront living.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-192
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Displacement
  • Gentrification
  • Racial capitalism
  • Settler colonialism
  • Urban geography
  • Urban political ecology


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