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Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City

Somerville, MA

Susan Ostrander

Publication Year: 2013

Overcoming a past of deteriorating homes, empty storefronts, and corrupt city administrations, Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, today proudly defines itself as a longtime immigrant city, a historically blue collar town, and a hip new urban center with a progressive city government.

In Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City, Susan Ostrander shows how beneath current high levels of engagement by Somerville residents lies a struggle about who should be the city's elected leaders and how they should conduct the city's affairs. It is a struggle waged between diverse residents--relatively new immigrants and a new middle class-trying to gain a foothold in democratic participation, and the city's political "old guard." 

Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City informs current debates about the place of immigrants in civic and political life, and the role of voluntary associations in local politics and government. In the process, Ostrander provides useful lessons for many midsize urban communities.

Published by: Temple University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-ix

The people who contributed most to identifying and defining the issues in this book are the actively engaged residents of Somerville, Massachusetts, a city with a long and compelling history, where the challenges are great and the collective drive to create a thriving and diverse community is strong and vibrant. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

Based on a multiyear qualitative study from 2004 to 2009 of a mid-size city adjacent to Boston, this book explores local influences that facilitate or pose barriers to civic and political engagement in the public life of an urban community. The book shows how civic and political engagement play out in Somerville, where residents are divided by class, race-ethnicity, and ...

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2. Overview of History, Demographics, and Politics

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pp. 19-35

Somerville was settled originally in 1630 as part of Boston’s Charlestown. The Massachusetts state legislature set Somerville aside as a separate town in 1842, and it formally incorporated as its own city in 1872 (Haskell n.d.; Ueda 1987).1 Somerville reportedly had to thwart annexation by its neighbors to claim its own charter (Haskell n.d.), and locals today like to claim ...

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3. Major Redevelopment, Community Involvement, and Shared Governance

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pp. 36-59

Ted Nolan, who once ran for political office, spoke similarly: “There is a lot of activism [in the city] around public transportation, affordable housing, open space, building a stronger tax base. [And] there is increasing activism on the part of some of the [newer] ethnic communities about being more ...

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4. Old and New Immigrant Experiences, Today and Yesterday

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pp. 60-80

A collaboration in the fall and winter of 2007 between a Somerville immigrant advocacy organization and Tufts University produced an exhibit called Immigrant City, Then and Now, which was mounted at the local museum. The exhibit and the programs that took place around it sought to provide a space for Somerville’s older white ethnic residents and ...

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5. Immigrant Civic and Political Engagement

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pp. 81-105

This chapter examines three key events in Somerville in recent years that called out organized civic and political engagement by immigrant residents and their advocates and allies. All three events threatened immigrant safety and security. To the extent that engagement is limited to this kind of occasion, I argue that the city’s immigrants are restricted in ...

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6. Gentrification, Resident Displacement, and a Common Vision for the City’s Future

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pp. 106-124

Against a background of debates about immigrant incorporation, economic development, gentrification, and resident displacement, this chapter gives evidence of a shared vision for Somerville’s future reaching across the city’s three main social divides.1 This commonality was also evident in the community visions for the city, discussed in Chapter 3, ...

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7. Extending Social Citizenship, Remaking City Governance

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pp. 125-148

The passage from the mayor of Somerville’s January 2004 inaugural speech, which also opens this book, is an eloquent expression of the social divisions in the city. They are the same divisions that this book has explored and that I have characterized as separating those who enjoy full community membership (social citizenship) from those who do not. Those groups with a greater ...


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pp. 149-158


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pp. 159-171


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pp. 173-178

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About the Author

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p. 190-190

Susan A. Ostrander is Professor of Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences, and Professor, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, at Tufts University. She is the author of Money for Change: Social Movement Philanthropy at Haymarket People’s Fund ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781439910146
E-ISBN-10: 1439910146
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439910139
Print-ISBN-10: 1439910138

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2013