Civic Colonialism: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Municipal Annexation in Arizona

edge of metro Phoenix landscape

Scholars have overlooked how urban annexation drove the development of the metropolitan Sunbelt in the American Southwest after World War II. A case study on civic life in 20th-century Phoenix shows how Anglo elites utilized municipal annexation to maintain colonial relationships with racialized communities in the surrounding agricultural hinterland.

Working-class Anglo settlers, along with racial minorities and non-white immigrants, were largely excluded from participation in civic activities, as Anglo elites fought to remove these residents to the metropolitan periphery. Still, civic elites could only extend their political control as far as the city borders, so after Phoenix voters approved major postwar municipal bonds, civic elites annexed surrounding areas so that Charter (the municipal political machine) could dictate development along the metropolitan periphery.

While metropolitan Phoenix enticed affluent homeowners with modern amenities and tolerable taxes, city officials engaged in ruthless chicanery to convert, cajole, or coerce consent for annexation petitions from right-wing populists. In contrast, Charter disenfranchised racialized residents to reduce resistance to annexation in segregated communities.

By 1960, just as in dozens of other Sunbelt cities across the nation, municipal annexation allowed civic elites to amalgamate the metropolitan periphery into their municipality. Metropolitan Phoenix, along with the broader American Sunbelt, exists due to municipal annexation.

In this presentation, Anthony Pratcher II, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy, will discuss how this policy should be understood as a facet within a longer historical continuum of settler colonialism in the U.S./Mexico borderlands. Pratcher is a candidate for a faculty position in the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU Polytechnic campus.


About the Speaker:

Dr. Anthony Pratcher II earned his BA in history from Howard University and PhD in American history from the University of Pennsylvania. His research intersects civic boosterism with racial capitalism in the historical development of the metropolitan Sunbelt. His research has been funded by the Arizona Historical Society, the Captain Victor Gondos Research Fellowship, and an NEH/ODH Fellowship on Space and Place in Africana/Black Studies.

To join the seminar via Zoom video conferencing rather than in-person, click here.

College of Integrative Sciences and Arts
Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez, Assistant Professor of English
Thurs., January 30, 10:30-11:45 a.m.
Room 130
Santa Catalina Hall
Polytechnic campus

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