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The Accidental Playground Cover

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The Accidental Playground

Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned

Daniel Campo

The Accidental Playground explores the remarkable landscape created by individuals and small groups who occupied and rebuilt an abandoned Brooklyn waterfront in Williamsburg. Without formal authority, capital, professional assistance, grand vision, consensus, or coordination with each other, these "vernacular" builders transformed a vacated waterfront railroad yard into a unique setting for recreation and creative endeavor. With the Manhattan skyline as its backdrop, the collapsing piers, eroded bulkhead, and remaining building foundations of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT) became the raw materials for various forms of waterside leisure and social spaces. Lacking predetermined rules governing its use, this waterfront evolved into the home turf for unusual and sometimes spectacular recreational, social, and creative subcultures. These included skateboarders who built a short-lived, but nationally renowned skatepark; a twenty-five-piece "public" marching band, fire performance troupes, and a variety of artists, photographers, and filmmakers. At the same time the site also served basic recreational needs of local residents. Collapsing piers became great places to catch fish, sunbathe, or take in the Manhattan skyline; the foundation of a demolished warehouse became an ideal place to practice music or skateboard; rubble-strewn earth became a compelling setting for film and fashion shoots; broken bulkhead became a beach; and thick patches of weeds dotted by ailanthus trees became a jungle. Drawing on a rich mix of documentary strategies including observation, ethnography, photography, and first-person narrative, Daniel Campo probes this accidental playground, allowing those who created it to share and examine their own narratives, perspectives, and conflicts. The multiple constituencies of this Williamsburg waterfront were surprisingly diverse, their stories colorful and provocative. When taken together, Campo argues, they suggest a radical reimagining of urban public space, the waterfront, and the practices by which they are created and maintained. The Accidental Playground, which treats readers to an utterly compelling story, is an exciting and distinctive contribution to the growing literature on the unplanned and the undesigned spaces and activities in cities today.

African Americans and the Color Line in Ohio, 1915-1930 Cover

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African Americans and the Color Line in Ohio, 1915-1930

Writing in true social history tradition, William W. Giffin presents a magisterial study of African Americans focusing on times that saw the culmination of trends that were fundamentally important in shaping the twentieth century. While many scholars have examined African Americans in the South and such large cities as New York and Chicago during this time, other important urban areas have been ignored. Ohio, with its large but very different urban centers—notably, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati—provides Giffin with the wealth of statistical data and qualitative material that he uses to argue that the “color line” in Ohio hardened during this time period as the Great Migration gained force. His data show, too, that the color line varied according to urban area—it hardened progressively as one traveled South in the state. In addition, whereas previous studies have concentrated on activism at the national level through such groups as the NAACP, Giffin shows how African American men and women in Ohio constantly negotiated the color line on a local level, through both resistance and accommodation on a daily and very interpersonal level with whites, other blacks, and people of different ethnic, class, and racial backgrounds. This early grassroots resistance provided the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement that would gain momentum some twenty years later. This analysis of the Ohio color line speaks to those historians who still are inclined to discuss Jim Crow as a wholly southern phenomenon. It indicates that the color line in the North was not uniform and provides further evidence of the importance of locale and local people in African American history. At the same time, it offers stories of inherent interest revealing human conduct at its best and worst.

Against the Wall Cover

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Against the Wall

Poor, Young, Black, and Male

Edited by Elijah Anderson. Foreword by Cornel West

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Typically residing in areas of concentrated urban poverty, too many young black men are trapped in a horrific cycle that includes active discrimination, unemployment, violence, crime, prison, and early death. This toxic mixture has given rise to wider stereotypes that limit the social capital of all young black males.

Edited and with an introductory chapter by sociologist Elijah Anderson, the essays in Against the Wall describe how the young black man has come to be identified publicly with crime and violence. In reaction to his sense of rejection, he may place an exaggerated emphasis on the integrity of his self-expression in clothing and demeanor by adopting the fashions of the "street." To those deeply invested in and associated with the dominant culture, his attitude is perceived as profoundly oppositional. His presence in public gathering places becomes disturbing to others, and the stereotype of the dangerous young black male is perpetuated and strengthened.

To understand the origin of the problem and the prospects of the black inner-city male, it is essential to distinguish his experience from that of his pre-Civil Rights Movement forebears. In the 1950s, as militant black people increasingly emerged to challenge the system, the figure of the black male became more ambiguous and fearsome. And while this activism did have the positive effect of creating opportunities for the black middle class who fled from the ghettos, those who remained faced an increasingly desperate climate.

Featuring a foreword by Cornel West and sixteen original essays by contributors including William Julius Wilson, Gerald D. Jaynes, Douglas S. Massey, and Peter Edelman, Against the Wall illustrates how social distance increases as alienation and marginalization within the black male underclass persist, thereby deepening the country's racial divide.

Ahmedabad Cover

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Shock City of Twentieth-Century India

Howard Spodek

In the 20th century, Ahmedabad was India's "shock city." It was the place where many of the nation's most important developments occurred first and with the greatest intensity -- from Gandhi's political and labor organizing, through the growth of textile, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, to globalization and the sectarian violence that marked the turn of the new century. Events that happened there resonated throughout the country, for better and for worse. Howard Spodek describes the movements that swept the city, telling their story through the careers of the men and women who led them.

America’s Safest City Cover

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America’s Safest City

Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia

Simon I. Singer

Since the mid-1990s, the fast-growing suburb of Amherst, NY has been voted by numerous publications as one of the safest places to live in America. Yet, like many of America’s seemingly idyllic suburbs, Amherst is by no means without crime—especially when it comes to adolescents. In America’s Safest City, noted juvenile justice scholar Simon I. Singer uses the types of delinquency seen in Amherst as a case study illuminating the roots of juvenile offending and deviance in modern society. If we are to understand delinquency, Singer argues, we must understand it not just in impoverished areas, but in affluent ones as well.

Drawing on ethnographic work, interviews with troubled youth, parents and service providers, and extensive surveys of teenage residents in Amherst, the book illustrates how a suburban environment is able to provide its youth with opportunities to avoid frequent delinquencies. Singer compares the most delinquent teens he surveys with the least delinquent, analyzing the circumstances that did or did not lead them to deviance and the ways in which they confront their personal difficulties, societal discontents, and serious troubles. Adolescents, parents, teachers, coaches and officials, he concludes, are able in this suburban setting to recognize teens’ need for ongoing sources of trust, empathy, and identity in a multitude of social settings, allowing them to become what Singer terms ‘relationally modern’ individuals better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of modern life. A unique and comprehensive study, America’s Safest City is a major new addition to scholarship on juveniles and crime in America.

Asian Urbanization Cover

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Asian Urbanization

A Hong Kong Casebook

D. J. Dwyer

This book surveys the most significant facets of Hong Kong's remarkable urban development during the last twenty-five years.

Atlanta: Race, Class And Urban Expansion Cover

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Atlanta: Race, Class And Urban Expansion

Atlanta, the epitome of the New South, is a city whose economic growth has transformed it from a provincial capital to a global city, one that could bid for and win the 1996 Summer Olympics. Yet the reality is that the exceptional growth of the region over the last twenty years has exacerbated inequality, particularly for African Americans. Atlanta, the city of Martin Luther King, Jr., remains one of the most segregated cities  in the United States.

Despite African American success in winning the mayor's office and control of the City Council, development plans have remained in the control of private business interests. Keating  tells  a number of  troubling stories. The development of the Underground Atlanta, the construction of the rapid rail system (MARTA), the building of a new stadium for the Braves, the redevelopment of public housing, and the arrangements for the Olympic Games all share a lack of democratic process. Business and political elites ignored protests from neighborhood groups, the interests of the poor, and the advice of planners.

Authentic New Orleans Cover

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Authentic New Orleans

Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy

Kevin Gotham

Honorable Mention for the 2008 Robert Park Outstanding Book Award given by the ASA's Community and Urban Sociology Section

Mardi Gras, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter—all evoke that place that is unlike any other: New Orleans. In Authentic New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham explains how New Orleans became a tourist town, a spectacular locale known as much for its excesses as for its quirky Southern charm.

Gotham begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amid the whirlwind of speculation about the rebuilding of the city and the dread of outsiders wiping New Orleans clean of the grit that made it great. He continues with the origins of Carnival and the Mardi Gras celebration in the nineteenth century, showing how, through careful planning and promotion, the city constructed itself as a major tourist attraction. By examining various image-building campaigns and promotional strategies to disseminate a palatable image of New Orleans on a national scale Gotham ultimately establishes New Orleans as one of the originators of the mass tourism industry—which linked leisure to travel, promoted international expositions, and developed the concept of pleasure travel.

Gotham shows how New Orleans was able to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, especially through the transformation of Mardi Gras into a national, even international, event. All the while Gotham is concerned with showing the difference between tourism from above and tourism from below—that is, how New Orleans’ distinctiveness is both maximized, some might say exploited, to serve the global economy of tourism as well as how local groups and individuals use tourism to preserve and anchor longstanding communal traditions.

Beautiful Terrible Ruins Cover

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Beautiful Terrible Ruins

Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline

Dora Apel

Once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, Detroit has become emblematic of failing cities everywhere—the paradigmatic city of ruins—and the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films.  
Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroit’s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disaster—in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroit’s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears. But Apel warns that these images, while pleasurable, have little explanatory power, lulling us into seeing Detroit’s deterioration as either inevitable or the city’s own fault, and absolving the real agents of decline—corporate disinvestment and globalization. Beautiful Terrible Ruins helps us understand the ways that the pleasure and the horror of urban decay hold us in thrall. 

Becoming New Yorkers Cover

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Becoming New Yorkers

Ethnographies of the New Second Generation

More than half of New Yorkers under the age of 18 are the children of immigrants. This second generation shares with previous waves of immigrant youth the experience of attempting to reconcile their cultural heritage with American society. In Becoming New Yorkers, noted social scientists Philip Kasinitz, John Mollenkopf, and Mary Waters bring together in-depth ethnographies of some of New York’s largest immigrant populations to assess the experience of the new second generation and to explore the ways in which they are changing the fabric of American culture. Becoming New Yorkers looks at the experience of specific immigrant groups, with regard to education, jobs, and community life. Exploring immigrant education, Nancy López shows how teachers’ low expectations of Dominican males often translate into lower graduation rates for boys than for girls. In the labor market, Dae Young Kim finds that Koreans, young and old alike, believe the second generation should use the opportunities provided by their parents’ small business success to pursue less arduous, more rewarding work than their parents. Analyzing civic life, Amy Forester profiles how the high-ranking members of a predominantly black labor union, who came of age fighting for civil rights in the 1960s, adjust to an increasingly large Caribbean membership that sees the leaders not as pioneers but as the old-guard establishment. In a revealing look at how the second-generation views itself, Sherry Ann Butterfield and Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida point out that black West Indian and Russian Jewish immigrants often must choose whether to identify themselves alongside those with similar skin color or to differentiate themselves from both native blacks and whites based on their unique heritage. Like many other groups studied here, these two groups experience race as a fluid, situational category that matters in some contexts but is irrelevant in others. As immigrants move out of gateway cities and into the rest of the country, America will increasingly look like the multicultural society vividly described in Becoming New Yorkers. This insightful work paints a vibrant picture of the experience of second generation Americans as they adjust to American society and help to shape its future.

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