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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.

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The Anti-Black City

Police Terror and Black Urban Life in Brazil

Jaime Amparo Alves

An important new ethnographic study of São Paulo’s favelas revealing the widespread use of race-based police repression in Brazil

While Black Lives Matter still resonates in the United States, the movement has also become a potent rallying call worldwide, with harsh police tactics and repressive state policies often breaking racial lines. In The Anti-Black City, Jaime Amparo Alves delves into the dynamics of racial violence in Brazil, where poverty, unemployment, residential segregation, and a biased criminal justice system create urban conditions of racial precarity. 

The Anti-Black City provocatively offers race as a vital new lens through which to view violence and marginalization in the supposedly “raceless” São Paulo. Ironically, in a context in which racial ambiguity makes it difficult to identify who is black and who is white, racialized access to opportunities and violent police tactics establish hard racial boundaries through subjugation and death. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research in prisons and neighborhoods on the periphery of this mega-city, Alves documents the brutality of police tactics and the complexity of responses deployed by black residents, including self-help initiatives, public campaigns against police violence, ruthless gangs, and self-policing of communities.

The Anti-Black City reveals the violent and racist ideologies that underlie state fantasies of order and urban peace in modern Brazil. Illustrating how “governing through death” has become the dominant means for managing and controlling ethnic populations in the neoliberal state, Alves shows that these tactics only lead to more marginalization, criminality, and violence. Ultimately, Alves’s work points to a need for a new approach to an intractable problem: how to govern populations and territories historically seen as “ungovernable.”

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Arabian Oasis City

The Transformation of 'Unayzah

By Soraya Altorki and Donald P. Cole

The first anthropological study to document the social change in an urban community in Saudi Arabia since the oil book of the mid-1970s.

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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.

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Atlanta

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.

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Atlanta Paradox

Despite the rapid creation of jobs in the greater Atlanta region, poverty in the city itself remains surprisingly high, and Atlanta's economic boom has yet to play a significant role in narrowing the gap between the suburban rich and the city poor. This book investigates the key factors underlying this paradox.

The authors show that the legacy of past residential segregation as well as the more recent phenomenon of urban sprawl both work against inner city blacks. Many remain concentrated near traditional black neighborhoods south of the city center and face prohibitive commuting distances now that jobs have migrated to outlying northern suburbs.

The book also presents some promising signs. Few whites still hold overt negative stereotypes of blacks, and both whites and blacks would prefer to live in more integrated neighborhoods. The emergence of a dynamic, black middle class and the success of many black-owned businesses in the area also give the authors reason to hope that racial inequality will not remain entrenched in a city where so much else has changed.

A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality

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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.

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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. 
 
 

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Beautiful Wasteland

The Rise of Detroit as America's Postindustrial Frontier

Rebecca J. Kinney

According to popular media and scholarship alike, Detroit, the once-vibrant city that crumbled with the departure of the auto industry, is where dreams can be reborn. It is a place that, like America itself, is gritty and determined. It has faced the worst kind of adversity, and supposedly now it’s back. But what does this narrative of “new Detroit” leave out? Beautiful Wasteland reveals that the contemporary story of Detroit’s rebirth is an upcycled version of the American Dream, which has long imagined access to work, home, and upward mobility as race-neutral projects. They’re not. As Rebecca Kinney shows, the narratives of Detroit’s rise, decline, and potential to rise again are deeply steeped in material and ideological investments in whiteness.

By remapping the narratives of contemporary Detroit through an extension of America’s frontier mythology, Rebecca Kinney analyzes a cross-section of twentieth and twenty-first century cultural locations—an Internet forum, ruin photography, advertising, documentary film, and print and online media. She illuminates how the stories we tell about Detroit as a frontier of possibility enable the erasure of white privilege and systemic racism. By situating Detroit as a “beautiful wasteland,” both desirable and distressed, this shows how the narrative of ruin and possibility form a mutually constituted relationship; the city is possible precisely because of its perceived ruin.

Beautiful Wasteland tackles the key questions about the future of postindustrial America. As cities around the country reckon with their own postindustrial landscapes, Rebecca Kinney cautions that development that elide considerations of race and class will only continue to replicate uneven access to the city for the poor, working class, and people of color.

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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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