Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Huber, Matthew T.


Housing, Housing Justice, Land, Racial Capitalism, Restrictive Covenants, Settler Colonialism

Subject Categories



This thesis locates the roots of the private U.S. real estate market, and racially segregated housing geographies, within a broader, multi-century project of establishing, racializing, and spatializing private property in land. Using archival methods, I examine and directly connect late 18th century land speculation and settlement, early 20th century real estate capitalist class formation, and the construction of all-white suburban sub-divisions based on racially restricted covenants. I investigate the city of Syracuse – a small, post-industrial city in Upstate New York on unceded Onondaga Nation land and one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. I argue that for over two centuries the ideological and material practices of "cultivation," "improvement," and suburban exclusivity have constituted both a project of whiteness and an organizing mechanism for developing real estate capitalism and maintaining segregated housing markets. This thesis extends the historiography on residential racial segregation, connects U.S. real estate formations directly and materially to ongoing dispossession, and uses housing as an arena for understanding how processes of racialization co-constitute capitalist development, appropriation, and private land ownership. Given the private real estate market's underlying logic and roots, I conclude that theories of change ought to pursue non-reformist reforms that reduce the size and scope of the private real estate market toward more liberatory ends – such as the de-commodification of housing and repatriation of land.


Open Access

Included in

Geography Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.