Visualizing Spatial Inequality in Early Colonial New Orleans

Madeline Liberman, Barnard College

Cities’ dividing lines determine who is at the greatest risk of facing environmental and climate-change-related hazards today, and who will suffer the most from them. Low-income people of color often live in environmentally unfavorable areas in the United States, due to historical marginalization; this racism is the target of the environmental justice movement. However, the American academic concept of environmental justice is employed much less frequently in cities outside of the U.S. This project uses an environmental history and environmental justice lens to explore how disparities in French colonial urban planning in Dakar, Senegal create unequal contemporary conditions. Colonial Dakar's exclusive European spaces had distinctive environmental and topographical advantages compared to designated Indigenous and non-European neighborhoods. This project investigates the continuities in this inequality by overlaying historical maps with indicators of social justice and environmental hazard, creating a digital environmental history and environmental justice atlas. Digital Terrain Models and flood risk layers indicate topographical differences and natural hazards in historically segregated areas. Recent census data is also mapped to locate low-income and marginalized areas in comparison to underserved neighborhoods during the colonial period. In the context of an environmental history of Dakar, the mapping tool reveals that the city’s peri-urban areas are particularly socially and environmentally vulnerable as a result of colonial displacement and under-resourcing.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 136. Geographies of Segregation and Inequality I