Category Archives: Major Field

Ann Markusen on “Fuzzy Concepts, Proxy Data: Why Indicators Won’t Track Creative Placemaking Success”

Last weekend I had the great honor and pleasure of presenting our Out the Window findings and meeting (!) Ann Markusen, the leading scholar in creative placemaking. To call Markusen’s work incisive, trailblazing, and deeply relevant is akin to calling the sun orangeish and warmish. It was a blast. Imagine my sheer delight when she liked, then asked to cite, said research! At the risk of losing all academic credibility, I say, “Wheee!”

But seriously. Please do yourself and your mind a great favor, and read Markusen’s latest blog post, which confronts and challenges assumptions made in the name of evaluating creative placemaking projects. All the better, she includes links to other research projects she’s done, all of which belong in your e-library. Enjoy!

via Fuzzy Concepts, Proxy Data: Why Indicators Won’t Track Creative Placemaking Success | Createquity.

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Toomey, A.H. (2009). Empowerment and disempowerment in community development practice: eight roles practitioners play. _Community Development Journal_, 46(2):181-195.

Anne Helen Toomey writes that while we as community development practitioners have learned a great deal since the profession’s start, those communities to be “developed” are those with the greatest to gain or lose. The resident is stuck to deal with the fallout of whatever project’s undertaken.

Again, we see “community development” has many meanings, depending on the agent/agency. Bhattacharyya (2004) proposes the “pursuit of solidarity and agency” (as cited on 182), but Toomey wonders about another popular and equally ambiguous term, “empowerment.” Using Craig’s (2002) definition, “the creation of sustainable structures, processes, and mechanism, over which local communities have an increased degree of control, and from which they have a measurable impact on public and social policies affecting these communities” (as cited on 183), Toomey avers we should think just as much about its opposite, disempowerment.

Think of community development practitioners’ historical/traditional roles:

  • Rescuer: good in the case of the Marshall Plan but states explicitly someone needs rescuing
  • Provider: like Rescuer, but not in times of crisis; this is the most of the international development organizations, and research shows most of the outcomes are simplified/superficial
  • Modernizer: linked to 50s development practices which impoverished small-scale actors (see Scott, 1998)
  • Liberator: Paolo Freire’s (1970) bottom-up education so actors can understand their oppression…good, except potentially polarizing

Alternative roles of the community development agent (interesting to compare against Sherry Arnstein’s [1969] ladder of participation):

  • Catalyst: individual, organization, or even a community that sparks new ideas/actions; they work indirectly and sometimes unwittingly
  • Facilitator: brings people together, especially on behalf of marginalized communities, and in doing so, can challenge current power structures
  • Ally: a friend and supporter who can act in several ways — “solidarity” is key here and relationships can be horizontal
  • Advocate: more politically active than Ally and more concerned with the issue itself

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Zukin, S. (2011). Reconstructing the authenticity of place. _Theory and Society_, 40(2): 161.

In this article, Zukin asserts the importance of looking at both economic motives and cultural strategies of urban and rural placemaking. There are “three necessary and sufficient factors that create both a structural and institutional base for modern settlements to develop distinctive, contrasting cultures” (161).

  1. People must be free to choose where they live.
  2. A local history, appealing to outsiders, must exist “through the social construction of either a material or a symbolic landscape” (162).
  3. Local entrepreneurs must market these attractive elements while suppressing others.

Under these conditions it is possible for residents to “engage in the reflexive creation of a spatial habitus” (162). Place branding is a powerful rhetoric that becomes a growth strategy, articulating zoning and other laws that ban traditional income engines in favor of making the areas more attractive to newcomers. Sometimes these makeovers are unsuccessful, if attempted, because if a local economy is not already diverse it’s less likely locals will band together around a new growth scenario.

Rural gentrification in such places as Vermont and Utah read a lot like city-district gentrification narratives. Newcomer entrepreneurs help develop a new place identity through creation of new art spaces, boutiques, restaurants, etc. In some cases a new place identity highlights historical elements “and present itself as respectful of the community’s authenticity — social and cultural networks of new producers and consumers create, nurture, and often capitalize on a completely new sense of place” (164). And so Williamsburg’s grittiness translates into high rents.

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Zukin, S. (1995). _The Cultures of Cities_. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Here Zukin has compiled a book of essay about the rise of the symbolic economy, brought on by the concurrent decline of cities and expansion of abstract financial speculation, and the themes we must consider when discussing cities: the use of culture as an economic base, the articulation of culture to privatize and militarize public space, and how the power of culture is related to the aestheticization of fear.

The five essay chapters include: (1) “Learning from Disney World,” which details the multinational’s symbolic economy and its oft-copied visual strategies of coherence, tableaux, compression, condensation, invisibility, and facades. (2) “A Museum in the Berkshires,” which explores economic cultural strategies in historic, post-Fordist districts and the inherent contradictions. (3) “High Culture and Wild Commerce in New York City,” which covers several initiatives since the mid-50s’ decision to make New York a cultural destination and the city’s qualified dedication to the arts, often breaking down over issues of land, labor, and capital. (4) “Artists and Immigrants in New York City Restaurants,” a seminar-derived piece exploring both how restaurants are themselves cultural sites, as well as the rigidities of ethnic and social divisions of labor. (5) “While the City Shops,” a departure from the traditional postmodern critique of the consumerist economy and an investigation into how the shopping street is a site for overcoming alienation and building community. In “Remembering Walter Benjamin” (253), Zukin affirms, “shopping streets lead us toward a material analysis of cultural forms” (254), that they are linked not just to globalization, but to immigration, recession, continual adaptation, and reuse of the built environment for retail shopping.

Zukin ends the book reminding the reading there is no one transcendent culture, but that cities do share the symbolic economy, therefore, we must ask whose representation of whose culture is being enshrined in which institutions when cultural strategies are formed.

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Zukin, S. (1989). _Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change_. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Sharon Zukin, PhD Political Science from Columbia University, is Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is an expert in consumer society and consumer culture (particularly shopping and urban change), gentrification, arts and economic development, and ethnic diversity.

In tracking the emergence of loft living in 1980s lower Manhattan, Zukin tells a larger story about gentrification and the diminution of manufacturing in the postindustrial city, asserting that we are “at a historic turning point in urban political economy” (176). She opens by arguing that loft living does not, in fact, encourage mixed use, nor is the city benefited by industry’s exodus or robust developer subsidies. The loft terrain, instead, is the site of the annihilation of manufacturing and generation of social group conflict.

Loft conversion happened because of the confluence of three things:

  1. The “loft lifestyle,” a mélange of the democratization of art (thus, increasing its commercialization and the associated lifestyle), the domestication of the “industrial aesthetic,” overall changes in perceptions towards artists, and the personal and state patronage provided them.
  2. An eager investment climate, wherein the smaller developers were pulled toward the attractive profit margins and larger developers pushed from the ballooning costs of their traditional endeavors.
  3. State intervention, each technique testament to the state’s role of speculator in response to deindustrialization and revalorization, as well as institutionalization of codification, socialization of consumption, and socialization of failure.

The Artistic Mode of Production (AMP): (1) assists in the evolution of productive urban space to nonproductive, (2) changes the local labor market, (3) decreases people’s expectations, (4) obscures current and pressing concerns by focusing on “picturesque” (180) historical aspects, and (5) makes a conversion back to industrial use nigh-on impossible. Thus, the three issues to consider in evaluating the AMP’s impact on the urban political economy: the base, the costs, and the contradictions.

Zukin draws four conclusions: (1) investors, not consumers, are the agents of change; (2) agents at all levels of investment are involved (“investment hierarchies” [191]); (3) negotiations regarding the urban terrain bespeak groups’ curious concepts of property rights; and (4) arts patrons and middle class historic preservationists play critical mediating roles.

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Wilson, W.J. & Taub, R.P. (2007). _There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America_. New York: Vintage Books.

Richard P. Taub, PhD Sociology from Harvard University, is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His research in urban sociology includes economic development, poverty, social change, India, and Honor. Currently he is studying urban, rural, and community economic development, the nature of entrepreneurship, public policy and policy initiatives’ implementation, and the way neighborhood contexts shape aspiration. (See other entry for Wilson’s bio.)

Studying four distinct ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago and applying Hirschman’s (1970) exit, voice, and loyalty theory, Wilson and Taub “test” to see to what extent are Hirschman’s assumptions correct and what conditions inspire loyalty and the attendant exit or voice responses. They find Hirschman’s theory does apply and that America is “likely to remain divided, racially and culturally” (161).

Race and ethnicity matter. Differences in “belief systems, values, worldviews, linguistic patterns, even skills” (162) become outwardly manifest as barriers to intercultural communication. This separation is either voluntary (exit) or imposed (voice) following a power struggle in which one group successfully restructures  the movement of the subordinated group “through forms of residential, educational, and occupational discrimination, often justified by racist ideologies” (162). The more entrenched a social system, the less likely racial boundaries will give way; it’s even less likely the barriers will be challenged.

“The essential point is that long-standing or current residents often see the presence, even the threat, of different ethnic, racial, and class groups in the neighborhood as undesirable” (165).

The Beltway residents used voice, prompted by a need to stay in the city limits for municipal jobs, intense social organization, connections with local government, and like belief systems. The Dover Mexican enclave will become more Mexican because the erstwhile white population is opting for exit and will continue to do so. The single common ground between the two populations was against nearby blacks and a public school busing program.

Archer Park lacks loyalty. Long since a Mexican stronghold, the neighborhood is regarded more as a “stepping stone” community, therefore lacks traditional neighborhood stewardship. Despite the overwhelming Mexican majority, there is still distinct racial antagonism against nearby African Americans in demonstration of superior social standing.

The African American Groveland is the most loyal of all communities. While there is some anti-white sentiment, most interest in inward-focused on building a positive black identity. The only immigration into Groveland is by lower-class African Americans, which concerns current residents.


  1. when residents sense the threat of inmigration, they will either exit or join forces with neighbors to fight change
  2. strong social organization will use voice
  3. the less faith, the faster the exit, and the faster the “tipping point” to a new majority population
  4. there are some “integration maintenance programs” which are just modern takes on redlining policies, consistent with structural racism

Policy recommendations:

  1. create an atmosphere first of local coalition building, then multiracial national coalitions, and
  2. end “laissez-faire racism” (Bobo, 1997), the belief that the circumstance of the African-American is his own fault and that he is therefore undeserving of government assistance.

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Wilson, W.J. (1987). _The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy_. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

William Julius Wilson, PhD Sociology from Washington State University, is one of twenty University Professors at Harvard University. He has taught sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Chicago; his expertise is in civil rights, the inner city, poverty, race, social policy, and urban policy. Much of his work has been controversial, particularly The Declining Significance of Race, the critique of which was the impetus for The Truly Disadvantaged. His book When Work Disappears has been credited as an inspiration of the second season of HBO’s The Wire.

In this astounding and devastating work, Wilson addresses the ghetto underclass in a comprehensive analysis, putting into “candid terms the social pathologies of the inner city” (viii), attributing the inner city’s plight to racial discrimination (historical more than contemporary), changes in the family structure, and misdirected public policy.

Part I discussions comprise: inner city social changes; the controversy surrounding the term “underclass;” an explanation of how the liberal viewpoint (i.e. the plight on disadvantaged groups can be related to the problems of broader society) ceded primacy to the conservative (i.e. where different group values are emphasized as are competitive resources to explain disadvantageds’ experiences); and the problems of the inner-city (e.g. violent crime, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed households), which can’t be explained by racism alone but are component to a complex web of factors including changes in the urban economy and class transformation in the city.

The structural economic changes of the postindustrial era have left African Americans of the inner city worse off than there were in the 1960s. Deindustrialization’s evaporation of manufacturing and demand for knowledge workers has resulted in stark male joblessness rates, particularly among young black men. Joblessness during youth, to Wilson, is indicative of structural weakness in the economy.

Wilson’s terms, per below, demonstrate this is not a “culture of poverty”:

  • concentration effects — the significance of the social transformation of the inner city; increasing joblessness has the most cataclysmic effect in areas of highest concentrations of poverty
  • social isolation — “the lack of contact or of sustained interaction with individuals and institutions that represent mainstream society” (60) Castells (1998) later refers to Wilson’s research in his social exclusion and Fourth World sections.
  • male marriageable pool — the viable marriageable pool of African American men is shrinking, leading to the increase in out-of-wedlock and female-headed homes
  • social buffer — when the middle and working class families left the declining neighborhoods, they took with them the critical institutions that buffered the neighborhoods from degrading into extreme poverty
  • social organization — “working arrangements of society…that specifically involve processes of ordering relations with respect to given social ends and that represent the material outcomes of those processes” (133)

In Part II, Wilson advocates for universal policies, noting that the most race-focused programs, such as affirmative action, in fact assist the already advantaged. He agrees with Fishkin’s (1973) “principle of equality of life chances,” that if we can confidently predict a person’s fate in society just by knowing their race, sex, or family conditions, “then the conditions under which their talents and motivations have developed must be grossly unequal” (116-117).  Therefore, he argues, a “program of economic reform characterized by rational government involvement in the economy” (112) is needed. Education and jobs for minority mobility are needed. Poverty should be seen as a reflection of insufficient education and skills delivered by a flawed economic system. Minorities in inner cities are vulnerable to recessions and structural economic changes. Wilson’s hidden agenda is a move from group-specific policy to a macroeconomic policy for better economic growth and a tight labor market (e.g. on-the-job training, apprenticeships).

We need “to improve the life chances of truly disadvantaged groups such as the ghetto underclass by emphasizing programs to which the more advantaged groups of all races and class backgrounds can positively relate” (155).

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Wark, M. K. (2011). _The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International_. New York: Verso.

Ken Wark, PhD in Communication, Murdoch University, is Professor, Culture and Media at the Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. His research interests include: media theory, new media, critical theory, cinema, music, and visual art. Other books include A Hacker Manifesto (2004), Dispositions (2002), and Speed Factory (2000).

Per this review, Wark’s book is a call to consider the Situationist International’s inventory of forms of praxis: dérive, détournement, the gift, and potlatch. Together these uphold individuation and collective belonging in opposition to the synchronizing, flattening spectacle.

Wark pithily bemoans high theory’s inwardly vertiginous obsession with the few “famous fathers” of yore and select “new demigods” (1). High theory, he claims, evolves as a response to disappointment; hence the productive time following May 1968. However, today “[we] are bored with this planet” (1). Boredom invites an altogether divergent low theory, one “dedicated to the practice that is critique and the critique that is practice” (3). The SI, Wark avers, explored such a critical practice, only too much has been made of the Situationists’ perceived dysfunctions and far too much emphasis placed on select “great men” (3). Were we to conceive of the SI as an experiment in social form and acknowledge Debord’s scrupulous decision to dissolve the collective before it was crushed “beneath the weight of its own incoherence” (121), we might more readily recognize the enduring value in the Situationists’ inventory of forms of praxis: dérive, détournement, the gift, and potlatch.

Wark’s book is best apprehended in terms of stages, chronological and conceptual, that catalog the contributors to Situationism – be they from within, the periphery, or even exile. The first portion details the SI’s forebear collective, the Letterist International, the misfit tribe of bohemian Saint-Germain, who together devised the critical praxis of negative action, making visible that which is impossible “within the limits of actually existing capitalism” (30). Then and there George Bataille, Michèle Bernstein, Ivan Chtcheglov, Guy Debord, Gil Wolman, and others conceived the dérive, psychogeography, and détournement with an ambition no less than to invent a wholly new civilization, leaving the 20th century behind them in distant memory.

Wark begins the middle of the book with the formation of the SI from other collectives in 1957, and this section pertains to formative theories within the Situationists’ active years. The portions on Asger Jorn’s and Henri Lefebvre’s respective provisions, as well as the chapter, “A Provisional Micro-Society,” are the section’s and book’s most successful, underscoring the SI’s emphasis on play, romance, even the collective’s own contradictions. Painter and theorist Jorn, a heavily modified and eventual ex-Marxist, proffers artistic materialism, noting art is not embedded in Marx’s superstructure but within our infrastructure; it is playful, social. As an alternative to Althusserian Marxism, Jorn proposes games and an “ontology of nature as flux, difference, and cooperation” (53).

Lefebvre never was a Situationist, but he and Debord shared an impassioned, if brief, intellectual encounter, during which they explored five concepts of interest, constituted by and constitutive of the Situationist project: “the everyday, totality, moment, spectacle, and the total semantic field” (96). For Lefebvre, the total semantic field’s three registers – signals, signs, and symbols – communicate deeply a notion rooted in romantic theory and reified in bohemia. Here and with these tools we can reverse fates and alienate the spectacle within society, itself “the concrete manufacture of alienation” (Debord, 1983, 32). Wark asserts a primary stratagem of the SI was taking up a romantic investigation of the total semantic field to a point, then reversing and establishing a new classicism in the wreckage. Such is just one lesson of the SI’s peculiar provisional micro-society: contradictions can prove creatively generative. It could and did not last, but Debord defended his paradoxical doctrine of no doctrine. Never doctrine, but “‘perspectives…a solidarity around these perspectives’” (as cited on 65). Founded on such ambiguity and fueled by a gift economy of donation for reputation, Wark recognizes the SI could not sustain. Games are not meant to endure.

However, Wark assures us this game has valuable lessons, thus the final portion of the book is a deliberate nod to the feasibility of Situationist practice as enacted by Alexander Trocchi and Constant Nieuwenhuys in the years subsequent to the SI. Trocchi’s project sigma attempts to bypass the cultural industry and arguably traces the beginnings of blogging. Constant’s New Babylon is noteworthy because his intent is that the transformation of the built form will, in fact, emerge from a transformation in social relations.

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Von Hoffman, A. (2003). _House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods_. New York: Oxford University Press.

In this optimistic survey of inner city regeneration, von Hoffman provides lessons from efforts to raise these erstwhile neglected or forsworn neighborhoods throughout the U.S.: New York’s South Bronx; Boston’s Dorchester; Chicago’s South and West Sides; Atlanta’s East Lake, Old Fourth Ward, Reynoldstown, and Summerville; as well as Los Angeles’ Watts and South Central following the 1992 civil unrest. While acknowledging the problems of racial mistrust and gentrification in the city case studies (i.e. Chicago, Atlanta, LA), von Hoffman leaves them aside in his conclusion, focusing on the following lessons believing we should apply the cities’ community development lessons to the increasing-in-size suburban slums. Not only is the city, as one hundred years ago, an immigrant community, it is also being gentrified, becoming more like the European model.

To contend with the sub-, extra-, and urban slums, we need: (1) leaders, survivors, or urban pioneers, who set high standards for the community and bring constituencies; (2) organized alliances of local institutions that mobilize and coordinate action, sharing resources, ideas, and risks; (3) government buy-in and the requisite political and monetary support, but not a power grab; (4) money — tapping the “power of capitalism [has] the widest impact” (255); (5) strategic plans and realizable goals because large, abstract campaigns “fail, often loudly” (ibid); and (6) a willingness to persevere as setbacks are inevitable.

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Von Hoffman, A. (1994). _Local Attachments: The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920_. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Alexander von Hoffman is a historian and Senior Research Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. He is now Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design in the Department of Urban Planning and Design. Prior to that, he was an associate professor of urban planning and design at the Graduate School of Design and fellow at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government.

Von Hoffman presents a revisionist view of the late 19th and early 20th century American urban neighborhood. He argues there has been an uncritical view of urban sociology (Tönnies, 1887) and that historians have largely ignored the nuanced development of the urban neighborhood’s economy, social networks, and transportation systems, as well as the impact of the decentralized, localist political structure.

Using Jamaica Plain in Boston as a case study, von Hoffman shows us an urban neighborhood whose establishment was unique and diverse. Land use analysis illustrates several specialized subdistricts for residential, commercial, and industrial manufacturing, not concentric circles or Euclidean zones. Social patterns were likewise diverse, as were the occupational statuses, religions, socioeconomic statuses, and the supportive, robust social organizations and religious institutions. Even women were active members in their own public, if separate, sphere.

Strong local economies along centralized commercial corridors encouraged local booster/community leaders, as well. Politics in the neighborhood were universalist, which was to the area’s, if not the directly adjacent community members’, benefit in terms of the Olmsted-designed public parks and expansive green spaces. However, this universal moralism had a more ambiguous impact on municipal government reform, which succeeded in changing a once “heterogeneous whole” into “homogenous parts” (239), initiating a “citywide battleground where moralism and group identity clashed” in the new “unstable [political urban] framework” (239).

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Takahashi, L.M. & Magalong, M.G. (2008). Disruptive Social Capital:(Un) Healthy socio-Spatial Interactions among Filipino Men Living with HIV/AIDS. _Health Place_, 14(2):182–197.

Lois Takahashi, Urban and Regional Planning PhD from USC, is Professor of Urban Planning and Asian American Studies, and Director, University of California Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Policy Multicampus Research Program (MRP). She researches social service delivery, HIV prevention, and homelessness in the U.S., as well as environmental governance issues in Southeast Asian cities. She’s now looking into the dynamics of social capital, particularly as it relates to health in impoverished and marginalized communities. Michelle Magalong is a doctoral candidate of urban planning at UCLA. She studies how cultural preservation is used towards community building, community development, and place making in Asian American communities.

Takahashi and Magalong write the current social capital model is “blind to political economic conditions, and relations of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual identity” (1), and propose a problematization of the topic. Disrupted social capital refers to the “instabilities and disruptions” (ibid)  in access to resources vulnerable individuals often suffer. Disruptive social capital refers to the deleterious effects of membership in robust, if health- and self-destructive social networks. As “marginalized, stigmatized, and excluded populations” (ibid) are assured unpredictability in resource access and availability, their health conditions might even worsen.

In general, the idea behind social capital is that trust and reciprocity encourage cooperative behavior/communal action/associational life, which tender material and emotional resources, followed by an improved quality of life. But public health research contends that poverty and social inequality matter more to one’s health than social capital. Still, social capital is the “adaptive advantage” for young immigrants’ upward mobility. As such, whatever framework is developed, it “must account for structural and institutional inequality, not just individual and community action” (4) and emphasize the dynamism inherent in interpersonal relationships.

The four interrelated elements of disruptive social capital in the lives of the marginalized:
(1) scarce resources and social disadvantage increase dependence on social capital-conveyed resources; (2) that social capital is “rife with instability and turbulence” (5); (3) loss of social capital leads to searches for new social networks and sites; and (4) discovery of social capital does lead to new health conditions and situations, but they might be a lateral or negative move. There is “disrupted social capital (where resources are interrupted) and disruptive social capital (where resources and social relationships result in change, sometimes health promoting or denigrating)” (6, emphasis mine).

In summary:

  1. Social capital has positive and negative dimensions.
  2. As social networks are disrupted, individuals/groups become marginalized and socially disadvantaged, so they seek welcoming networks that provide support but put them at further health risk.
  3. To get healthier, individuals will relocated from “negative” health spaces to healthier ones. However, these places often come without the emotionally supportive social capital.

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Sugrue, T.J. (2005). _The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit_. Princeton and London: Princeton University Press.

Thomas J. Sugrue, PhD in History from Harvard University, is David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise comprises American urban history, American political history, and the history of race relations. He has published on the history of liberalism and conservatism, poverty and public policy, civil rights, and the history of affirmative action.

Origins of the Urban Crisis is a multiple award-winner. Using postwar Detroit as the exemplar for telling the story of the demise of the industrial American city, Sugrue asserts the shape of postwar cities results from political and economic decisions. The story of Detroit brings to bear the two most “important, interrelated and unresolved problems of American history: that capitalism generates economic inequality and that African-Americans have disproportionately borne the impact of that inequality” (5).

“Racial ideology, culture, politics, labor market structures, and internal firm dynamics all interacted in shaping patterns of black employment” (93).

Sugrue tells the story of: the first housing riots against integrated housing in 1943; the community and political obstacles to public housing through the 1950s; the structures of employment discrimination (e.g. racial screening, provision of the least desirable jobs in municipal work, “seniority,” back-of-house retail jobs, total exclusion from skilled work such as construction and essential exclusion from unions) which eventually led to casual labor and the development of the underclass; the devastating effects of Detroit’s deindustrialization and losing battle against leaving jobs; blockbusting, redlining, and real estate segregation; and finally, the July 1967 riot, five days of violence, mostly by police enforcement against young black men.

Sugrue concludes that the War on Poverty has directed money and attention to behavior modification and jobless youth, but what was/is needed is a set policy agenda confronting deindustrialization and discrimination.

“..the rehabilitation of Detroit and other major American cities will require a more vigorous attempt to grapple with the enduring effects of the postwar transformation of the city, and teh creative responses, piece by piece, to the interconnected forces of race, residence, discrimination, and industrial decline, the consequences of a troubled and still unresolved past” (271).

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Staeheli, L.A. and Mitchell, D. (2008). _The People’s Property? Power, Politics and the Public_. New York: Routledge.

Lynn Staeheli, PhD Geography, University of Washington, is Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University. Along with public space, she researches citizenship, political activism, and immigration. (See other entry for Mitchell’s bio.)

This book is an expanded publication of earlier journal articles detailing five case studies that each reflects various iterations of public space (broadly defined) and examines the interrelations of “public space, property, politics, power in the construction of publicity” (xxv). The case studies discuss:

  1. permit requirements for protests in Washington, D.C.: the regulation of place, time, and manner of political demonstration
  2. property law in Santa Fe Plaza: the plaza as both a civic property and set of social relationships, and the governments’ contradictory roles of landlord and sovereign
  3. the public redevelopment for private interests and subsequent delegitimizing of the homeless population in downtown — the “neoliberalization of the city” (71)
  4. community spaces (and thus controlled) in private malls in Syracuse (“community” is an unwieldy term)
  5. the public-ization of public property in NYC gardens (Fraser’s [1992] subaltern groups and their “rescue” from Giuliani by land trusts, though they themselves are under no obligation to create space for mobilization)

Following Weintraub (1995), Staeheli & Mitchell conclude the book with two chapters that ask, What is the public? and What are the ‘regimes of publicity’? They assert you must look at property relationships to comprehend public space fully, as well as understand that the public nature is constantly in flux. The “differentiations of property are productive of differentiations within people” (138); and publicity itself is “an exercise of power” (141), therefore the struggle will never be resolved.

A regime of publicity comprises the “prevailing system of power” (152), characterized by the intersection of these three dimensions:

  1. property, which they contend the contest of which is not discussed nearly enough in the literature
  2. social norms and community membership, or civitas, that’s based on the notion of a public sphere and the Lefebvrian (1996) notion that the assertion of norms and community bear with them the potential for radical democratic remaking of the city
  3. legitimation, the social norm-hewing and normalized outcome of which ensures the regime is in accord with the prevailing concepts of publicity.

In all, we must look at “actually existing [Fraser, 1992] public spaces” (154) to understand the structural composition of regimes of publicity.

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Smith, N. (1996). _The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City_. London and New York: Routledge.

Neil Smith, Geography PhD from Johns Hopkins University, is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center department of CUNY. He studied under David Harvey, so he shares a Marxian perspective of political economy, urban social theory, space, nature-culture, and history and theory of geography. He examines globalization and consequent uneven development at the local and global scales.

In The New Urban Frontier, Smith confronts the term “frontier” and demythologizes the use of it and “pioneer” in contemporary American (and global) development. He views gentrification as a decidedly bad thing, the “product of political economic shifts in local and global markets” (92), which has been vigorously undertaken by production-side, capital interests since the 1960s. These revanchist (from the French revanche, “revenge”) city interests are aggressively re-taking the city, regenerating it, cleansing it, and re-infusing it with middle-class standards.

This gentrification process takes place at the frontiers between improving and disinvested communities. It “infects working class communities, displaces poor households, and converts whole neighborhoods into bourgeois enclaves” (17). Smith proposes the rent gap as the functional tool. Producers (e.g. builders, developers, landlords, mortgage lenders, government agencies, real estate agents, etc.) use the “disparity between potential ground rent level and actual ground rent capitalized under present land use” (67) as the justification for their development.

This is an economically, not culturally, driven process of collective social action — proponents call it “urban renaissance” — manifests in distinctly uneven development patterns. These local contingencies are also global: they reflect the implications of global capital flows and are becoming standardized (with local flavorings, of course) all over the world.

Things to note:

  • governments are active agents of gentrification (recall Logan & Molotch, 2007)
  • current residents are in Catch-22 positions: they like seeing their neighborhoods improve and thus welcome investmentyet they will be promptly priced out once improvements are completed
  • gentrification flows up unnaturally, against filtering down (see Zukin, 2010)
  • “degentrification” will likely not happen

Smith believes:

“…we can expect a deepening villainization of working-class, minority, homeless, and many immigrant residents of the city, through interlocking streams of violence, drugs, and crime” (230).

Finally, an interesting point about the arts: its role in gentrification has been no accident. Per Deutsche and Ryan (1984), it “has been constructed with the aid of the entire apparatus of the establishment (as cited on 18-19). Some have remained progressive political agents, but some avant-garde artists have behaved as “brokers” (19) between the culture industry and artistic hopefuls. “Good art and good locations become fused. And good location means money” (20).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Major Field, Research Fields