Introduction: Reckonings: Ferguson and the Politics of Site Definition. Essays by Michael R. Allen and Heidi Aronson Kolk. Introduction by Iver Bernstein.


The American Culture Studies Program at Washington University (AMCS) has launched a three-to-five year faculty program initiative on Modern Segregation designed to provide opportunities for collaborative engagement for faculty and students. What are the structures that define Modern Segregation and how are they maintained in the so-called "post-race" era? These questions, already pressing, have taken on an intense urgency in the context of the Ferguson, Missouri crisis and struggles.

The Ferguson crisis is a teaching and learning moment of the first order. It is an invitation to experiment with new forms of collaborative engagement that rise to the intellectual and political challenges of our time. Please find below a demonstration of one such collaborative engagement, highlighting the research and teaching possibilities of the AMCS Digital Platform, and featuring American Culture Studies faculty Heidi Aronson Kolk, AMCS Associate Director, and Michael R. Allen, architectural historian, Director of the Preservation Research Office, and AMCS University College Coordinator. 

We call these collaborative essays, co-written by Kolk and Allen, Reckonings: Ferguson and The Politics Of Site Definition. What these "Reckonings" do is invite us to look far more closely than we might be accustomed at the visual images of Ferguson. We are asked to consider how that site, as a place of "Contestation," "Conflagration," "Corporate Neighbor," "Capture," "Commemoration," "Conservation," and above all "Change," is being variously interpreted as a place of conflict, trauma, ruin and renewal, and history-in-the-making, as the struggle unfolds. These "Reckonings" engage the political stakes of Ferguson by training our attention on the unlikely and uncanny detail, sometimes easily missed in the all-too-familiar ordinariness of photographs and film images of the suburban strip. When interrogated and contextualized by Kolk and Allen, the QuikTrip Convenience Store and other Ferguson sites of political and cultural contestation become staging grounds for new understandings that strike the reader with the force of perceptual revelation. 

Here is an approach to the problem of understanding Modern Segregation that works from the ground up, rejecting stale and familiar generalized abstractions to examine the everyday life as lived.

Photo Credit: Michael R. Allen. The QuikTrip stands nearly monumental behind the chain link fencing.

**Since the beginning of this initiative, both Heidi Aronson Kolk and Michael Allen have transitioned to new roles at the University. To learn more information please view their profiles.**