Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Urban and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Urban and Public Affairs, PhD

Committee Chair

Walker, Margath

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Imbroscio, David

Committee Member

Imbroscio, David

Committee Member

Parkhurst, Shawn

Committee Member

Exmeyer, Patrick

Author's Keywords

Blues epistemology; imaginaries; black geographies; critical theory


The fight against displacement and dispossession in the increasingly inequitable process of reterritorialization is arguably the most pressing struggle of the modern city – and it is articulated through cultural production as much as through political debate and economic development. Yet research that is at the nexus of critical, urban, and cultural studies and which explores the resistant potential of countercultural production rather than the hegemonic impact of mainstream cultural production is underdeveloped. Clyde Woods’s blues epistemology offers a guide to reading cultural production of marginalized groups as maps of meaning that offer alternative visions of the past, the present, and the future. However, research that substantially leverages the blues epistemology has been limited, is rarely conducted within the field of urban studies, and tends to approach Woods’s multifaceted blues in a piecemeal fashion. This dissertation explores extant blues epistemic research as critical, urban, cultural studies and it asks what methodological themes are necessary for nuanced, blues-based social investigation, how we might perform that investigation with a consistent emphasis on radical change, and how that call for change might be refocused by putting Clyde Woods’s socio-spatial sensibilities directly into conversation with Herbert Marcuse’s consistently utopic thinking. The resulting papers reposition Woods’s work to a broader audience, revitalizing and operationalizing blues epistemologies as they amplify the (harmonic and melodic) voices of marginalized groups and illustrate how their cultural production has grappled with inequality and has sought to keep that struggle at the forefront of the urban imagination.