Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)
College of Arts and Sciences
In this paper, I critically explore the subjectivities of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPNS), part of the largest redevelopment project in San Francisco since 1906. Applying an abolition ecologies framework, I ask what explains the duplicity of the Shipyard as a site of radioactive contamination and capital accumulation, and in the same time-space one that creates the conditions for radical place-making. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is a former commercial and military shipyard located on a peninsula in southeastern San Francisco. Motivated by its desire for a major shipbuilding and repair facility to project maritime power in the Pacific, the Navy purchased the private dry dock in 1940 and recruited thousands of Black Southerners to participate in the warmaking economy.
The Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory also operated at HPNS, conducting applied research on irradiated vessels as part of the “creative destruction” that precipitated the Golden Age of Capitalism. Structures of New Deal programs in Hunters Point, such as the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, though, unevenly redistributed the consequences of “welfare-warfare,” “reinforcing Jim Crow without speaking his name.” Moreover, a disproportionate number of Black workers lost their jobs with the Shipyard closure of 1974. The EPA declared HPNS a Superfund site, and the Navy closed it permanently in the 1990s, reaching an agreement with the Redevelopment Agency to transform the Shipyard into a residential and commercial utopia.
Thirty years into remediation, radioactive compounds loom among residents living near the Shipyard. Distrustful of agencies and officials responsible for remediation and redevelopment, longtime homeowners challenge the nexus of gentrification and pollution by carving out their "right to the city." This capstone paper, to summarize, advances abolition ecologies as an analytical approach that explains how subjectivities inform the production of urban space, with a focus on the collective making of land, air, and water-based environments. I critically examine how the politics of race, space, and nature influence the redevelopment of toxic Superfund sites while underscoring how their deconstruction as relational and dynamic processes shapes material and experiential notions of “freedom as a place.”
O'Hara, Spencer Daniel, "Abolition Ecologies and the Making of Freedom as a Place in Bayview-Hunters Point" (2023). Master's Theses. 1497.