Tag Archives: authenticity

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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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Cultural Economy, Major Field, Minor Field, Research Fields

Belated Reports from the Field: Berger and Burnett Inform my Trip to the 2012 Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference

The second weekend in June I attended the Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference in Madison, WI. It was, owing to the topic, a considerably analog affair. At the risk of being obvious, vernacular architecture is exactly like vernacular language; only here the text is the built environment. It subsumes everything from housing to bridges to farm buildings to gas stations, and so on, and scholars are particularly interested in it for its reification of cultural landscapes. And while we read Berger (1977) and Burnett (2004) in terms of the digital humanities, I was struck by how much this Forum’s particular object of scrutiny underscores both Berger and Burnett’s writings. [Sidebar: I study cultural landscapes, as well, but my primary reason for being there was to take a very nerdy vacation. It was time very well spent.]

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Filed under Quotidian, Scholarship, Travels

Wherry, F.F. (2011). _The Philadelphia Barrio: The Arts, Branding, and Neighborhood Transformation_. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Frederick Wherry, PhD in Sociology from Princeton University, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is both a cultural sociologist who researches markets, as well as an economic sociologist who examines the motivating meanings in and from the market place. He has studied markets in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Philadelphia to better understand how cultural identity affects and improves opportunities within the global and local contexts.

In this book, Wherry holds that community stakeholders (local residents) can transform their neighborhoods through creativity and sweat equity, thus enhancing a neighborhood’s economic vitality and symbolic reputation/distinction (Bourdieu, 1989). The neighborhood in this case is Philadelphia’s Centro de Oro, or as was known from the mid-80s, “the Badlands,” a neighborhood beset by media’s binary narrative of “problem solvers” or “trouble makers” since the mid-80s. These nonmaterial constraints helped negatively shape not just how outsiders perceived the neighborhood, but how the neighborhood perceived itself. “Theirs is the story of how arts and culture contribute to neighborhood change” (21).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Major Field, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields