171: TERM PROJECT (SPRING 2010)??"“Creative Destruction in the Wake of Urbanization”
Worth 20% of the course grade.
Due April 8th/9th in your discussion section (or before that??"please make arrangements with your teaching assistant.)
This project will require you to think like an urban geographer. Your job is to produce 7 type-written pages that will consist (in part) of some original research (some more investigative reporting and analysis!) on an American city of your choice. The Five Boroughs of New York City, however, are off limits. New York City-area municipalities, like Newark, New Rochelle, Levittown, or the Oranges, however, are perfectly okay to study.
Between the late 1970s and 1990s an incredible gale of creative destruction transformed North American cities ‘up’ and ‘down’ the urban hierarchy. Fifty years of egalitarian state intervention (in existence from the 1910s onward) had created a policy regime that regulated and taxed businesses as well as the upper and middle classes so as to provide a social ‘safety net’ and other public infrastructures that would enhance social reproduction. Gradually, however, capitalists, politicians, and an ever-increasing proportion of the electorate came to believe that such heavy state intervention was stifling innovation and burdening families through taxation. They began clamoring for the restructuring and dismantling of government programs, many of which specifically provided financial assistance to urban municipalities and residents. In response, many cities had to cut back on social services and infrastructure maintenance (becoming less “managerial” in the process) and started to instituted economic development programs that would try to attract new investors and tourists as a way to pick up the slack (hence becoming more “entrepreneurial.”) Many cities thus experienced erosions in public services for people who were poor, elderly, homeless, or living with temporary or permanent disabilities and a concomitant explosion of privately funded charitable organizations and other not-for-profit groups intended to help those same populations. At the same time, however, city governments and business organizations launched massive public relations campaigns intended to create for their towns the image that they were not only safe but great places for capitalists to invest and the elite to live. They even entered into public-private partnerships that would create new festival marketplaces, convention centers, museums, galleries, aquariums, ballparks and other sports venues and other facilities intended mainly for an upscale clientele. While some cities led the way in pioneering this path toward ‘neoliberalization,’ others struggled to follow suit. By the decade of the 2000s, however, the physical landscape, social structure, and cultural meaning of large cities and small towns all across the country had been irrevocably changed.
For this essay, we would like you to write about some aspect of this story as it is (or hasn’t) played in the city that you choose to study. Since 1970, what has this city (its government, businesses, not-for-profits, and citizens) done to become more entrepreneurial, to foster a better business climate, and to cater to the elite? What changes have been made to the physical environment, to the job market, and to the image of the town/city as a result? Most importantly, have these changes been all for the good? What problems have been created as a result in terms of environmental injustice, employment gaps, and the silencing of dissenting ideas and opinions?
This is actually a very good time to be trying to answer questions like this. The recession has laid bare the pitfalls of neoliberalization because the problems once experienced only by the most disadvantaged members of the population have spread to the middle and upper class through layoffs and business failures. They can no longer be ignored or dismissed as issues that pertain only to certain social or racialized groups. Further, within most cities, city councils and other governmental bodies are arguing over what to do in response to these problems. How can cities be refashioned in more egalitarian ways? Finally, thirty years of elite-oriented investment has left obvious marks on the city. One need only to think about the transformation of New York City’s Time Square and 42nd Street during this period??"from X-rated movie houses, strip clubs, sex shops, and cheap hotels and apartments to family-oriented theatres, restaurants, and high-end retail establishments. Police surveillance and public ordinances have also dislocated the homeless, prostitutes, and panhandlers. And, while this might all be viewed as a good thing, it has only displaced these activities and people to other areas, and has been the opening salvo in the erection of public policy that has since been used to curtail free speech and political demonstrations in places like Central Park and to evict residents from their homes to make way for gentrification.
STEP 1: Pick your city. It can be your hometown, a place you want to move to, a place you’ve visited . . . whatever. The ONLY restriction is that it can’t be New York City and you need to be able to find evidence of neoliberal, creative destructive trends.
STEP 2: Start looking for evidence of the above mentioned trends. Have there been any neighborhoods that have been declared as historic districts? Are they become sites for gentrification? Has the city ‘branded’ certain neighborhoods as ‘improvement districts’ or as special areas like ‘Little Italy’? Has the city partnered with banks or other major corporations to create a new stadium? Have major improvement been undertaken to ‘restore’ urban parks or historic architecture? Has the city condemned old warehouses or docks along the waterfront, cleared them out, and created tourist and festival-oriented waterfront parks and shopping districts? Have homeless and mentally ill people seemed to disappear? Have building-mounted security cameras seem to have sprouted everywhere?
STEP 3: Pick a development (a project, a trend) from STEP 2. Think about the ways in which it might have been good for a city. See if you can find data that argues for the positive externalities it is supposed to have generated, e.g. tax revenue available for the city to spend on other projects. But, look also for evidence of negative externalities??"the problems that such projects/trends can create. This may require you to get away from official websites like those run by the city, a local development corporation, or a business organization and to places like the blogosphere. In fact, a great place to try to find who might be protesting or complaining about such projects is Twitter or by looking at search histories on Google. What is the history of the project/trend? What changes did it cause to the physical environment? How did it get incorporated into images and the ‘branding’ of the city? Why might those changes cause problems?
STEP 4: And this is VERY critical, essential, MANDATORY??"you need to consult the academic literature to see what geographers have written about projects and neoliberal developments like these. To help, we are posting an article on Blackboard: Hamnett, Chris. 2003 “Chapter 31: Urban Forms” in Cloke, P, P. Crang, and M. Goodwin (editors) Introducing Human Geographies
(London: Hodder Arnold): 425-438. Not only does Hamnett discuss many aspects of the trend toward neoliberalization, but he does so with a lot of important geographical concepts that we’ve talked about in class and that Marston and Knox explore in your text. Hamnett, however, will not be enough. You need to find and discuss at least one other geography
journal article (published after 1995 at least) that helps you understand recent neoliberal and creative destructive trends.
STEP 5: Write an essay about what you’ve learned. As always, it needs to have:
1) An introduction, trajectory statement and conclusion. There NEEDS TO BE AN ARGUMENT!
2) A DESCRIPTION of neoliberal trends as they have/haven’t played out in your town/city
3) An explanation, in LOCAL TERMS, as to why the town/city felt these changes/projects to be necessary. What did it do to promote them? Stop them from happening? You might want to INTERVIEW people in the town/city and incorporate quotes and the information they provide within your paper.
4) An analysis of positive and negative externalities generated by these changes/projects using COURSE and JOURNAL CONCEPTS of YOUR CHOICE
5) References and a bibliography containing as many sources as necessary to make and support a PLAUSIBLE argument. Quantity of citations/references, however, should be no substitute for the QUALITY in terms of the way that you use these sources. We will be grading this section based on whether or not these references are cited in the appropriate places and will be assessing whether or not they help further the argument.
6) MAPS and GRAPHICS: we need to know WHERE these developments have taken place. Moreover, you need to be using the maps as a way to help talk about the positive and negative externalities they might be generating on adjacent neighborhoods or areas. Extra credit (up to 2 points) will be given for maps that YOU create by plotting data, much as you did for Assignment #1.
7) an argument, a logical structure, and must be free of grammatical and typographical errors.
8) STYLE??"is it well written and properly formatted (12 pt. font, one-inch margins?)
Finally, make certain that you do NOT plagiarize from other sources. No direct copying and if you paraphrase the ideas of others, make certain you cite them as sources. Any evidence of plagiarism will be automatic grounds for failure of this assignment??"and given that its worth twenty percent, you can’t afford it!
If you have any problems or questions, please feel free to ask your TA or Dr. Mosher.
Good luck AND TRY TO HAVE FUN WITH IT. You’ve got a lot of latitude with this essay and you should be able to pick cities that interest you and explore problems/issues found in them that intrigue you. The best essays always result when students make choices that reflect things that they care about or are interested in. So, if you are concerned about the environment??"talk about the ways in which creative destruction has impacted the environment. Or if its social injustice, you might talk about infrastructure and accessibility to resources. Or if its culture/nightlife and the lack thereof, you might explore it. Etc, etc, etc, etc. Further, it is perfectly okay to build upon your previous assignments.
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