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Regeneration, Citizenship, and Justice in the American City since the 1970s


Aneta Dybska

This book investigates post-industrial American cities as sites of struggle where political identities are mobilized and new modes of citizenship are articulated. This interdisciplinary analysis gleans insights from anthropology, literary criticism, cultural studies, geography, political philosophy, and urban studies. Drawing on scholarly, journalistic, essayistic, and fictional texts, the author examines the linkages between urban regeneration policies, citizenship, and social justice in the neoliberal city. She foregrounds grassroots and official strategies of community building, civic revival and democratic governance, as well as the right to the city, localism, and sustainability as key discourses and practices of re-configuring and re-inhabiting the urban.

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The very isolation of the individual—from power and community and ability to aspire—means the rise of a democracy without publics. With the great mass of people structurally remote and psychologically hesitant with respect to democratic institutions, those institutions themselves attenuate and become, in the fashion of the vicious circle, progressively less accessible to those few who aspire to serious participation in social affairs.

—“Port Huron Statement,” n. pag.

This study of the American city explores the interconnected categories of urban regeneration, citizenship, and justice. It focuses on the ways the urban citizens interact with the changing natural and built environment to make cities livable. The conceptualizations of the city in this project glean insights from anthropology, cultural and literary studies, history, urban geography, planning, political ecology, political science, and sociology. While American urban studies developed in the early 20th century with the Chicago School of Sociology’s research on the problems of the industrial city (such as immigration, race relations, and social deviance), contemporary urban studies investigate the post-industrial city and the emergent forms of urbanism. Once vibrant industrial centers of the national economy, the post-industrial cities are struggling with the effects of deindustrialization, disinvestment, urban decay, and social polarization. In response to the chronic problems, urban studies puts forward regeneration solutions that address issues of democratic governance, the civil society, community building, social justice, and sustainable development. As living laboratories for innovation and just forms of urbanism, American cities create new possibilities...

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