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This essay extends and applies Sylvia Wynter’s meta-cartography of Man and les damnés de la terre/the wretched of the earth by looking towards contemporary debates over the urban. The research draws attention to debates in the fields of urban redevelopment and renewal in order to interrogate the current “epistemological resignation” that marks much scholarly research on urbanity. Noting the epistemological illegibility and silence enshrouding the forced displacement, mass imprisonment, and state and epistemic violence facing urban, low-capital communities of color, Wynter’s writings on the intersections between notions of habitability and gauges of humanness are explored. This line of inquiry is situated in and around post-Katrina New Orleans, drawing upon notions of contamination, deluge, and purification, in order to unearth how the always-already defiled status of Black geographies and corporealities within scholarly literature (and far beyond) sustains the synaptic workings of the dominant episteme.

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