Pasts and Fututes of South Side Chicago

How can understanding the history of the South Side help us understand present circumstances and speculate about the future?

“South Side Speculations: Pasts and Futures of Black Chicago” asks what’s possible when young people investigate their neighborhoods histories in one of the United States’ most segregated cities and imagine how to build healthier and freer futures. Resisting progress narratives that promise things will always get better and nostalgic accounts of carefree pasts, this online exhibition explores how economic, political and cultural structures evolve over time.

Redirecting our scale of imagination, we seek to challenge the idea that all problems have solutions. Speculation about pasts and futures, as a way of thinking, offers mechanisms to find and address problems more effectively.

The projects archived on this site speculate about pasts and futures of infrastructure, healthcare, and policing. The work you will see and hear should provoke questions about how we want the future of Chicago’s South Side to look, as it resists easy answers based on dominant representations of the city today.

South Side Speculations was produced by History Moves (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Transmedia Story Lab (University of Chicago). We received generous support from the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

What are speculative publics?

The project employed thinking about past, present, and future that organized the curriculum and workshops around a modified schematic of the well-known “Cone of Possible Futures.” In the “Double Cone” schematic, the past is opened up as a space of possibilities or yet-to-be articulated histories. Re-orienting oneself to the Past shifts an understanding of the Present which, in turn, opens up new trajectories toward Future possibilities. Exhibitions of the project used the “Double Cone” schematic as a model to organize the inputs and outputs of the project moving from Past through the Present to the Future.

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