Presenter: Katherine Hankins, Associate Professor of Geosciences, Georgia State University
“Intentional neighbors” are middle class Christians who seek to achieve spatial solidarity with people living in impoverished and marginalized inner city neighborhoods. This large and growing movement in U.S. cities follows a model for achieving social justice that was laid out and practiced by an African-American veteran of the Civil Rights struggle named John Perkins. For Perkins, the relocation of privileged bodies into marginalized places is a necessary first step in subverting structures of racial domination and economic injustice. It is only through shared everyday life that relations of mutual respect and understanding can emerge, forming the social basis necessary to challenge these entrenched systems and realize in actual places what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “beloved community.” In varying contexts across the United States, thousands of “intentional neighbors”, typically white and middle-class, move into poor, excluded neighborhoods in order to build community among the poor by learning concretely what poor and marginalized people face, by understanding their needs and hopes, and by sharing their material circumstances. In interviews and writings (e.g., books, blogs, newsletters), intentional neighbors explain this relocation as a purposeful attempt to establish a basis for reconciling racial/ethnic, class, and other social differences and to demonstrate solidarity with fellow human beings. In this talk I explore how intentional neighbors’ encounters with their neighbors in Atlanta, Georgia, form the basis for their place-based solidarity.