Uprooting Urban America

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Race, Class and Gentrification

by Horace R. Hall (Volume editor) Cynthia Cole Robinson (Volume editor) Amor Kohli (Volume editor)
©2014 Monographs XVIII, 310 Pages


Shifts in America’s socioeconomic geography have been documented since the 1960s, demonstrating the reversal of white flight and the reshaping of a nation, evidenced by the growing divide between underprivileged citizens and the wealthy. As state and local governments continue to scale back social services that impact health and well-being, how will disenfranchised groups fare in this expanding, market-driven global society? Uprooting Urban America addresses this query by examining the social consequences of policies that change urban landscapes during the process of gentrification. In this book, junior and senior scholars present contemporary research findings and innovative strategies within the fields of education, healthcare, geography, sociology and policy studies. The book is ideal for graduate and advanced graduate level courses in the disciplines of education, sociology, cultural studies, political science, public policy, urban planning, social justice education and health care and human services.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Space and the Culture of Property: Deep Roots
  • Discourses on Property: Theological and Philosophical Origins
  • Property in the 21st Century
  • Property, Politics, and Education
  • Privatizing Public Space
  • Urban Space and Schools
  • Healthcare
  • Public Space, People, Democracy, and Protest
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Introduction: Understanding Gentrification and the Recolonization of U.S. Urban
  • References
  • Part I: Urban Renewal and the Marriage of Civic Government and Free Market
  • Chapter One: Relocating Gentrification: The Working Class, Science and the State in Recent Urban Research
  • The Vanishing of the Working Class in the Public Sphere and Urban Research
  • The Growing Heteronomy of Urban Inquiry
  • The State as Homemaker and Street-Cleansing Agency
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Two: Hurting or Helping: Gentrification and African American Neighborhoods in Chicago
  • Introduction
  • Neighborhood Change: A Working Definition
  • Public Housing Policy and Neighborhood Change
  • HOPE VI Program
  • The Chicago Plan For Transformation (PFT)
  • Four Chicago Communities
  • Public Housing Policy and Four Chicago Communities: Assessing Neighborhood Change
  • Analysis 1
  • Analysis 2
  • Neighborhood Change: Where Do We Go From Here?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Three: The Shrinkage Machine: Race, Class and the Renewal of Urban Capital
  • Introduction
  • Postcrisis Land Management Strategies in the Rust Belt
  • Urban Renewal and the Expansion of “Planned Shrinkage”
  • Governance
  • Land Appropriation by Municipal Government
  • Classification and Catastrophe: Mobilizing Neighborhood Typologies
  • Notes
  • References
  • Part II: Reorienting Gentrification: Space, Equity and Voice
  • Chapter Four: Sustainable Urban Development and Environmental Gentrification: The Paradox Confronting the U.S. Environmental Justice Movement
  • Introduction
  • Environmental Injustice and Gentrification
  • Achieving Environmental Justice Without Gentrification: Policy Approaches and Strategies
  • Market-Based Approaches: Focusing On the Consumer
  • Institutional Approaches: Housing-Market Interventions
  • Activist Approaches: Changing the Narrative
  • Contractual Approaches: Community Benefits Agreements (CBAS)
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Visualizing Change: Using Technology and Participatory Research to Engage Youth in Urban Planning and Health Promotion
  • Introduction
  • Visualizing Change
  • Streetwize: YPAR and Technology
  • Streetwize in Practice
  • Youth Developing, Constructing, and Extending GIS Layers
  • Youth Innovation: Integrating Emerging Technology into GIS
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Six: Reframing Spatial Inequality: Youth, Photography and a Changing Urban Landscape
  • Photovoice as a Tool for Participatory Action Research
  • Critical Geography and Gentrified Spaces
  • The Context for A University-Community Partnership
  • Children’s “I Am” Poems: Writing about Identity and Place
  • Children’s Images of a Changing Urban Landscape
  • Circumstances of Attachment and Belonging to the Neighborhood
  • The Lack of Safe Spaces
  • Spatial Inequality and the Unequal Distribution of Material Resources
  • A Sense of Displacement
  • Conclusion
  • Coda
  • References
  • Part III: Is There a Class Conscious, Racially Sensitive Doctor in the House?
  • Chapter Seven: Training Physicians for the Demographics of the 21st Century: The Importance of Diversity and Cultural Competency
  • Inequality in Access to Health-Care and the Steps Taken By the Affordable Care Act
  • The Need to Expand the Primary Care Workforce
  • Expanding the Racial and Ethnic Diversity of the Medical Profession
  • Academic Programs to Increase Student Diversity
  • Expanding the Concept of Diversity in Selecting Students for Medical School
  • References
  • Chapter Eight: Gentrification and Health: Patterns of Environmental Risk
  • Domains of the Environment
  • Phases of Gentrification
  • Phase I: Pre-Gentrification
  • Phase II: Peak Gentrification
  • Phase III: Post-Gentrification
  • Mitigating the Environmental Impacts of Gentrification
  • Long-Term Research Needs
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Chapter Nine: Residential Segregation: Trends and Implications for Conducting Effective Community-Based Research to Address Ethnic Health Disparities
  • Background and Introduction
  • Residential Segregation
  • Significance
  • Historical Context
  • Conceptualization and Operational Dimensions
  • Demographic Trends and Shifts
  • Pathways Associated With Social Determinants of Health
  • Associated Mortality Outcomes
  • Associated Morbidity Outcomes
  • Discussion
  • Limitations of Residential Segregation Research
  • Associations between Residential Segregation and Gentrification
  • Directions for Future Research
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part IV: The Customer Is Always Right: Democracy Under Threat in Public Schools
  • Chapter Ten: Topsy-Turvy: Education at the End of Empire
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Cultural Studies in Dark Times: Public Pedagogy and the Challenge of Neoliberalism
  • Introduction
  • The Politics of Neoliberalism
  • Neoliberalism as Public Pedagogy
  • Cultural Studies and the Question of Pedagogy
  • From A Pedagogy of Understanding to a Pedagogy of Intervention
  • References
  • Chapter Twelve: Disparity, Austerity and Public Schooling in the United States: Why Quentin Can’t Read
  • School Funding in the United States
  • Why School Funding Matters
  • Balancing Budgets on Schoolchildren’s Backs
  • Disparity and Austerity in Context
  • Tax Caps and Credits
  • “School Reform” Initiatives
  • For-Profit Online Charter Schools
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen: School Activism and the Production of Urban Space in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Gentrification and Schooling
  • Atlanta’s History and Geography of Race and Class
  • Gentrification and Parent-Gentrifiers’ Commitment to Public Schools
  • Gentrification and the Creation of a Charter School
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • References
  • Part V: The Groundswell: Community Responses to Urban Renewal
  • Chapter Fourteen: “History Still Matters”: Leveraging Historicity in Struggles to Control Space
  • Introduction
  • Lower East Side and Gentrification
  • Doing Politics in a Gentrified Neighborhood
  • The Seward Park Redevelopment Plan
  • Seward Park Information Campaigns and Planning Process
  • Kicking Over the Traces
  • SPURA Visioning Sessions
  • What Will Happen To SPURA?
  • References
  • Chapter Fifteen: Gentrification as Class Politics
  • Introduction
  • The Sociological Context
  • The Neighborhood
  • Rezoning and Redeveloping Greenpoint’s Waterfront
  • The Rezoning Process
  • Affordable Housing Becomes Number 1
  • The Plan
  • The Approved Plan
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Sixteen: Foreclosure Crisis and the Role of Community Organizing in a U.S. Latino Community
  • Introduction
  • Unfolding Foreclosure Crisis
  • Act and the Foreclosure Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Act Responds with Community Organizing
  • Facilitating Cultural Empowerment
  • Expanding Civic Discourse about Homeownership
  • Participating and Supporting Coalitions
  • Building Community Equity
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Seventeen: Community Parading and Symbolic Expression in Post-Katrina New Orleans
  • Post-Katrina and Post-Big Easy
  • Background of a Disaster
  • Resurgence of Parading Traditions
  • Participatory Forms of Parades
  • Divide and Conquer: Segregated Ordinances for Segregated Parades
  • Parade Participation
  • Why Protect These Parades?
  • Have Times Changed?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Afterword: Things Have Fallen Apart but We Are Planning to Stay
  • What Do I Have in Common With A Foot Soldier of the Tea Party?
  • We Are Planning To Stay
  • References
  • Contributors



On Politics, Property and Wealth


Uprooting Urban America moves beyond the more narrowly conceptualized works now in print. The editors have clearly glimpsed the new social order through a broad interdisciplinary assemblage of writings by well-qualified and thoughtful scholars. In the introduction, Hall writes:

This book examines salient demographic changes facing the United States in the 21st century, with a focus on the social phenomena of gentrification, the suburbanization of poor and minority groups, increased cultural competency in fields of healthcare and education, and the growing necessity for community organizing.

He goes on to note that this anthology is building on critical discourses pointing to the colonization of urban spaces, housing redevelopment, and privatization of healthcare and education. If you are not deeply affected by the essays you are about to read, then you had better check your pulse.

This is a book about the state of our being. The inescapable message is that oppression and abuse breed resistance and protest. It turns our attention to politics. Politics is an umbrella concept covering power, race, equity, displacement, and human interaction. This edited volume is about hope and imagination. As churched Black folks say, “trouble don’t last always.”

The editors were astute in locating demographics as central to their inquiry. Property, politics, and culture are inextricably connected. They are at the heart ← ix | x → of our socioeconomic existence. I would like to look at the ubiquitous impact of property to help foreground the new social order.


Space is an overused term in today’s world. It has both personal and societal connotations. Often abstracted, the concept of space is deeply rooted in notions of property and power. The fetish of property is central to class society and prominent in Western thought and, perhaps, all human history.

The land, the oceans, the skies, and all that lies beneath and above have long been contested. Mother Nature’s bounty providing sustenance and beauty is now commodified, fought over, and perhaps forever destroyed. The concept of property has been inextricably connected to human existence, commercial interaction, and partisan interests. The meaning of property now extends far beyond natural resources, reaching to nearly everything that can be possessed. Now schools have been drawn into this discourse.

Questions surrounding property seem endless. Who owns what? Where are the boundaries? How are public and private property defined? How are those definitions changing? Concepts of property and property rights were theorized long ago and have evolved over time.


Notions of property appear in the Bible and extend back to the Creation. John Battle’s (2008) biblical scholarship offers insights into the theological origins of property. He references the Creation and the Old Testament, where God is cast not only as the redeemer but also as creator. (S)He is presented as the owner of all people and things. Battle writes that the Old Testament presents the world as God’s possession by right of his “creation and sustaining providence.” God’s sovereign rights over the earth and its inhabitants are demonstrated by events such as the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Battle concludes that the Old Testament establishes God’s possession of the earth and its people.

By the 11th century, concepts of “natural rights” were explored (Machan, 2002). Private property came to be seen by many as a natural right. Among the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato’s communal notions of property were countered by Aristotle in The Politics (2010).

In chapters 3 and 4, Aristotle discusses the family or household, starting with its property, including slaves. Property, for him, includes possessions and instruments, ← x | xi → which Aristotle distinguishes. Possessions are connected to human activity, and instruments are means to the production of artifacts, the products being either possessions or instruments—i.e., means either to further production or to human action. Artisans or employees in farming or industry are human beings who are means to production; slaves are human beings who are possessions, means to action, along with domestic servants and secretaries. The slave “wholly belongs” to the master.

The father of classical liberalism, John Locke (1632–1704), wrote extensively on questions of property, positing that to preserve the public good, the central function of government must be the protection of private property. Initially, Locke suggested the earth and everything on it belonged to all of us in common; among perfectly equal inhabitants, all have the same right to make use of whatever they found and could use.

In his major writings (Locke, 1690), he underscored the “moral” dimension of property. He drew a connection between acting freely and responsibly as moral agents and having the right to private property. He defended the institution of the right to private property as well as the way property might be assigned. He theorized that individuals who toiled on the land and improved its productivity acquired a property interest in the result. In the Second Treatise (1690) he argued that our bodies and their movements are our own; therefore whenever we use our own effort to improve the natural world, the resulting products belong to us as well. He wrote (1690):

The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.

His refined arguments contributed to the platform for Western social thought and capitalist ownership.

Building on the theoretical platform advanced by Locke, Founding Father James Madison took a leading role in theorizing governance, power, property, and structure for the new territory that became the United States. He believed an arrangement was required that could satisfy both those who favored strong central government as well as others wanting strong states rights. Rejecting the feudal autocracy of Europe, Madison charted a course of “federalism” where the central government would be superior to state and local governing bodies while allowing great latitude to the states. The inalienable rights would be protected at all levels. Property was one of those rights. His writings (1792) joined property to government.

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. ← xi | xii →

Madison associated property with consciousness, choice, and safety. It is as if property were God given and an organic part of humanness. Property was also inextricably associated with freedom. Property had to be protected at all cost. He defined property (1792) as:

that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual. In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage. (pp. 266–68)

Madison (1792) concluded: “If the United States means to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights….”

In ensuing years, the United States expanded its boundaries through purchase and capture. Colonialism and imperial conquest elevated questions of property to national, even international, status. Modern capitalism complicated issues as profit and advantage became increasingly attached to property questions. Trademarks, patents, and copyrights were designed to protect and make exclusive the right to property protection. Fiercely competitive globalized capitalism has pushed notions of intellectual property into that discourse.


Property is a major dividing line in society. Property is linked to affluence, power, and privilege. Class divisions are seen as those between the propertied and the propertyless. Property is at the heart of politics and the life or death struggle for survival faced by many throughout the world.

Demanding the reorganization of society, neo-liberalism (Harvey, 2005) has elevated notions of property to new importance. Its market-oriented view advances capitalism and politics to a new level where, masked by the promise of opportunity, the usurpation, reconfiguration, and concentration of wealth and property enriches the very few and impoverishes many. A return to medieval property relations is evidenced as throughout the world partitions are being constructed to keep the “rampaging hordes” and “rabble” out of valued and protected spaces. The neo-liberal free market ideology re-divides the world.

Parenthetically, I note that the 21st-century global neo-liberals in the United States have, quietly and unofficially, embraced diabolical and extreme new military policies involving sovereignty, war, and property. Pursuing war in the Middle East, the American generals and corporatists no longer honor national boundaries as theatres of war. They now treat the entire world as the battlefield. Illegal incursions ← xii | xiii → into Pakistan and drone attacks in Yemen and Syria suggest that any nation and any government anywhere can be disrupted or overthrown as part of their war.


As this book will demonstrate, the spacial and political landscape of the United States is being reconfigured. Having grown accustomed to liberal democracy, welfarism, and a safety net, the nation is now experiencing the terror of neo-liberal politics and economics. Public spaces are now usurped by private interests. Public schools, traditionally public property, are being reconceptualized as cities are being re-walled.

As an educator I am interested in how “walls,” wealth, and property issues impact education. Gentrification and school “reform” are now inextricably connected (Lipman, 2011) as the re-structuring of urban spaces proceeds rapidly. Universal education, a staple of liberal democracy in the United States, is under attack (Watkins, 2012). Public schooling, as we know it, will not likely survive. Let us move to understanding the neoliberal re-imagining of public education by first contextualizing the transformation of public to private spaces.


President George W. Bush’s (2004) call for an “ownership society” mouthed a sales pitch that contributed to the banks and lending agencies engaging in apocalyptic mortgage scams that nearly undermined the entire economic order. The appeal to property ownership was difficult to resist.

Rights of property have evolved over time. Property under feudalism was fundamentally land or landed estates. This was the base of real property or real estate, a term that usually refers to a property that generates income for the owner without the owner having to do the actual work of the estate. In Europe, agrarian landed property typically consisted of a manor, several tenant farms, and some privileged enterprises. Property was inextricably connected to control. Control of property today has shifted from control by aristocracy and nobility to individual and corporate control.

Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution shifted the paradigm of property away from land (and bodies—e.g., American slavery—ownership/value of the body, often seen as less than human—refer to Locke) onto tools, machines, and the instruments of production, which represented the greatest source of profits. In Europe and North America, capitalism also brought about monumental changes in land occupation as workers moved to industrial venues where production was ← xiii | xiv → centralized. The urban construct altered the dynamics of property, ownership, and space.

By the 19th century, definitions and practices of space became more narrowly rendered. Public space or “commons” were now shared and created for open usage. Private space was individually or corporately owned. Physical arrangements became socially and legally constructed. Pursuant to what we now call zoning, areas were identified for production or housing or recreation and entertainment. Organization, limitations, and behaviors were imposed by law to create acceptable public conduct and prevent, for example, drunkenness, loitering, and “unlawful” assemblies.

The advancement of industrial production and evolution of cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries further redefined space arrangements. Parks and open spaces were now accompanied by thoroughfares, walkways, bridges, walls, and tunnels. A two-tiered urban environment was created where the privileged class was able to live apart from the proletariat. Midway through the 20th century, space allotment became more refined with the advent of the suburb, which allowed the more privileged, mostly white population to live, be educated, and shop within planned and comfortable isolation, away from the city's less fortunate. Late 20th-century gentrification has altered, perhaps reversed, the suburban construct, as the inner city is now being reclaimed by the middle classes.


Urban school “reform” is profoundly impacted by transformed urban spaces. Mike Davis (1990, 2006) among others, has written extensively about changing urban spaces and the accompanying dynamics of power and race. Downtown areas in major metropolitan areas are the epicenter of space reorganization. Their spaces are policed by private security guards instructed to exclude "undesirables" such as people of color, the poor, and the homeless as well as uninvited activity, such as loitering. Political protests are problematic for the downtown core area where valuable assets and the seat of local government usually reside.

“Good” schools are central to the plans for gentrification, as white middle-class parents will not tolerate substandard schools. Gentrification and privatization are wedded. The privatization of public space also represents a more fundamental elite agenda. Privatization of the public realm substitutes the private corporation for public institutions as the repository of ownership, trust, legitimacy, and common identity in our society.

The corporation now replaces the community, as it dominates the economic, political, and spacial order. The privatization of public space is part of a pattern, ← xiv | xv → which includes the privatization and corporate invasion of public schools and the proposed privatization of Social Security, housing, healthcare, and other institutions indispensable to the needs of the people.


While healthcare occupies limited space in this volume, the editors and authors recognize its importance in this demographic and political moment. Healthcare festers as one of the nation’s most explosive issues. Millions of people walk around with decaying teeth, uncorrected eyesight, and in throbbing pain. It is where the inequities in our everyday lives become magnified. If you are a little sick, they charge you a little. If you are very sick, they charge you a fortune. It is capitalism at its worst. How can the United States be the only industrial country without state-sponsored healthcare?

America is a sad story of quality healthcare for the affluent and minimal service for the poor and propertyless. Essays in this volume enlighten us about salient issues in this field, including physician shortages and cultural insensitivity among others. Those of us who have had to endure long stretches without health insurance must conclude that any society that commodifies healthcare must be taken to task.


(Re)Situating people in America is connected to larger social, economic, and political issues. Commerce in urban areas relies on the social imprisonment of poor people of color to staff the service industry. Traditional living space configurations, that is, ghettos and barrios, are being altered in some cities, while the demand for service jobs remains. Housing the working poor has become a thorny issue as many are driven out of the central cities.

The “urban renaissance” has become the urban nightmare. As public amenities shrink with the closing of libraries and playgrounds, the neglect of parks, and the desolation of increasingly dangerous streets, public resources are being diverted for developments that further privatize public space and subsidize new exclusive enclaves (Davis, 1990; 2006).

Beyond the obvious segregating of people by race and class, the power politics of public space aims to limit, redefine, and disempower citizen participation. In fact, democracy itself is at issue in the ongoing contest of the peoples’ rights versus private interests. The transformation of public space into corporate preserves is an attempt by powerful elites to erase from our minds a consciousness of ourselves as people ← xv | xvi → who own the government. The disappearance of public space renders people less and less able to communicate with their fellow citizens. Instead of the government fearing the people as it should, people fear the government and big wealth. Apologists counter-claim that spaces are “public” as long as anyone can enter.

The owners of wealth pursue changes in government, law, and the State that will enable them to hold on to and increase what they have in the face of increased economic instability and the threat of social and political challenge. Those who must work to live desperately hang on to what jobs they can get and hope for better times. The epochal shift from industrialization, with production and distribution based on wage labor, to a system based on laborless digitized production is at the root of the social and political changes affecting individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments—the world as a whole.


XVIII, 310
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (August)
socioeconomic geography education healthcare sociology
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 310 pp.

Biographical notes

Horace R. Hall (Volume editor) Cynthia Cole Robinson (Volume editor) Amor Kohli (Volume editor)

Horace R. Hall is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Research at DePaul University. He received his PhD in curriculum studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Cynthia Cole Robinson is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Teacher Preparation at Purdue University Calumet. She received her PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Amor Kohli is Associate Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University. He received his PhD in English from Tufts University.


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