Native Daughter: Home, Segregation, and Mental Maps

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Narrow mental maps, those that present a blinkered, overly simplified view of reality, are believed to play a role in the development of prejudicial attitudes and behaviors. But what about when such maps happen to be held by members of disadvantaged groups? This paper examines the mental map of “home” held by an African-American girl who lived in a racially segregated community outside Chicago during the Depression. It finds that her map was not a simple, single construct, but consisted of overlapping, interpenetrating landscapes of sights, sounds, places, and feelings. Perhaps surprisingly, while her map was detailed and complete, it did not acknowledge the segregated nature of her family's neighborhood. The article suggests that her map served a defensive purpose, protecting her from the indignities of being a conscious victim of discrimination. It concludes that while narrow maps might indeed feed the prejudices of members of dominant groups, they may operate as instruments of empowerment among the oppressed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-145
Number of pages19
JournalHome Cultures
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2004


  • CHICAGO (Ill.)
  • UNITED States
  • GEOGRAPHICAL perception
  • MATERIAL culture
  • SOCIAL groups
  • COMMUNITY support
  • COMMUNITY relations


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