Theses Master's

Caring for Abolition (Park): The Spatial Politics of Care

Bon-Hodoyan, Ariana

Care is a fundamental aspect of human existence, encompassing everyday acts of interdependence that sustain human relations, social structures and economic systems. However, caregiving is subject to larger systemic forces and institutions, which has resulted in a crisis of care structures and the conditions under which it is given. Patriarchal systems of power have historically undervalued care by feminizing and naturalizing unpaid care labor as innate to women and by providing low wages, poor working conditions, and inadequate recognition for paid caregivers. To ensure adequate care, it is crucial to consider the spatial dimension of caregiving, as the built environment can affect the quality of care and conditions for caregivers. However, disciplines related to the built environment have primarily focused on the public realm and overlooked how gender and race shape power dynamics within households and communities.

Urban planning can address this by exploring ways to address the unequal dynamics of the private sphere, which significantly impact people's experiences with the built environment. This thesis therefore addresses the spatial aspect of care to challenge the invisibility of care work, and argues for the need of a comprehensive approach to understanding and theorizing care in the context of the built environment. Such an approach enables us to examine how care is influenced by the built environment and transformed into spatialized networks that can enhance the quality of care, improve the conditions under which it is provided, and elevate its value and recognition.

In 2020, the world witnessed the occurrence of a global pandemic and a racist epidemic of violence at the same time, exposing the inability of traditional networks to respond adequately. In response to this, pandemic mutual aid groups emerged as alternative means of providing care, while people across the United States organized protests against racist police violence and brutality, sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Throughout history, mutual care strategies have been crucial in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, and the pandemic underscored their fundamental role in collective survival.

Drawing from the work of organizers, feminists, critical geographers and scholars, this thesis interrogates understandings and practices of care by analyzing caring networks that developed in the protest site known as “Abolition Park” in Lower Manhattan during the summer of 2020. It discusses the politics of care to counter its low-visibility and interrogate the ways in which caregiving is socially and politically organized. Building from the resourcefulness and perseverance of caregivers and activists, this thesis aims to promote a care-centered perspective in urban planning that prioritizes caregiving practices within the built environment. By analyzing the spatial networks of care developed in Abolition Park, we can gain valuable lessons for urban planning that encourage the recognition and support of care, as well as equitable distribution of caregiving responsibilities to alleviate the disproportionate burden currently placed on women, particularly women of color, due to systemic racism and gender-based stereotypes. To enhance the significance of care, it is crucial to promote a care-centered approach in urban planning and to take action to advance a just care system.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Bou Akar, Hiba
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 16, 2023