“Mapping Christian congregations and community organizations in urban neighborhoods whose residents are challenged by the negative impacts of corporate development can support community organizing and advocacy for policy changes that can contribute in practical ways to what scholars often refer to as “spatial justice,” but which Christians have known since ancient times as “God’s Kingdom” on earth. ”
The relationship between Christianity and place has long been explored in biblical, spiritual, and theological terms. More recently, scholars have considered the role of Christian congregations in contributing to spatial justice in concrete, socioeconomic, and cultural terms, particularly in urban areas where more than 80% of the U.S. population lives. To understand the place of Christian congregations in addressing spatial injustice in American cities, our project studies seven neighborhood clusters in Silicon Valley whose residents experience negative impacts of corporate development projects such as the Google Transit Village (known locally as “Googleville”). Still in its early stages, Googleville development has already resulted in dramatic increases in housing prices, displacing residents of already marginalized communities, limiting socioeconomic opportunities, and erasing cultural presences that ground social identity and neighborhood solidarity. We will document how material assets of Christian congregations in Googleville are emplaced to support of “the least of these” in a region in which economic inequality is marked out on the landscape. Employing a mixed methodology including GIS mapping, field interviews, and ethnographic photography, our project will illustrate how Christian presence participates in the creation of just urban geographies. In addition to academic conference papers anticipating journal publications, a key product of our research will be a website, available to educators, church leaders, and community advocates, with a multilayered geomap of the Googleville area showing Christian congregations and associated on-the-ground assets along with demographic data that can support community organizing and advocacy for policy change. We will likewise share our findings in a community forum with panelists from local congregations, religious service organizations, community advocacy organizations, and city and county planning departments.