Colouring the city: 'Black-on-black violence' and liberal discourse

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A new social ill was placed before America in the early 1980s: 'black-on-black violence'. Like so many urban social issues in recent times, this process was dramatically simplified for easy public consumption. Editorials, features and commentaries profoundly racialised this violence, proclaiming this was at its core black assailants in black cultural worlds. In this context, these implicated (often in grizzly and theatrical detail) isolated and destructive subcultures that propelled kids into worlds of violence. This paper examines the content of one prominent contribution to this discourse, the cultural liberal rendition. It uses spatiality theory to reveal this discourse as complex, spatially saturated and internally fractured. It reveals its complex process of racialising reality that lay behind seemingly simple, straightforward and objective renditions of this violence. The author conducted a content analysis of prominent magazines, city newspapers and local interviews with political leaders between 1980 and 1998. The results suggest that racial codes and signifiers dramatically punctuated the discourse. Beneath the seemingly simple and straightforward rendition of this violence was an elaborate contextual setting-up that normalised this racialising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-278
Number of pages18
JournalTijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Black-on-black violence
  • Discourse
  • Social construction
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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