Urban Rights Struggle: Street Memorials in the Bronx

Matiss Steinerts, Fordham University


The Bronx street memorials are created to establish memory of victims of street deaths in the city. They are created mostly in Black and Latino neighborhoods. They represent a rich cultural heritage of Christianity, indigenes American and African cultures. Nevertheless, memorials are a result of several soaring American urban issues like poverty, racism, and segregation. The most important aspect of memorializing practices in the Bronx is the struggle over the urban rights. Harvey’s notion of the right to the city is applied to practices in the Bronx. Although street memorials violate several urban design and civil codes they are important part of grieving practices and they structure community relationships. By blurring the strict boundary between the private and the public they create vibrant and lively street environment. Memorials help to turn Augé’s urban non-place into an anthropological place that is recognizable, historical and located in particular neighborhood. However, memorials are temporal structures and thus they are constantly removed. That creates tensions between the representatives of the power and communities. Ongoing rebuilding and removing of the memorials represent the struggle of inhabitants to have a control over their space. A raw form of spatial urban democracy can be observed in this struggle where each candle represents one popular vote to take over the inhumane and dull street-scape and use it for creative expression of urban problems, communication and tradition.

Subject Area

American studies|Cultural anthropology|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Steinerts, Matiss, "Urban Rights Struggle: Street Memorials in the Bronx" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10279121.