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1 Introduction We want the inebriation of presence to dissolve the fact of difference. —Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams This Is Care From 2004 to 2006, Chicagoans came face-to-face with public housing residents in an unlikely place: during their everyday commutes and errands. Posters and placards featuring intimate portraits of residents alongsidetestimonialsaboutlife inandafterChicago’sprojects anchored a public relations campaign that blanketed the city’s buses and trains. They were most prominent on routes that traversed public housing complexes then in the thick of demolition.1 The “This is CHANGE” campaign emerged when the Chicago-based international advertising giant Leo Burnett Inc. donated its services to the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The campaign’s designers had two aims. The first was to debut the CHA’s new logo, CHANGE, a play on both the authority’s acronym and its train wreck of a history . And the second was to pitch to Chicagoans positive narratives about an ambitious planning experiment under way in their city: the demolition of troubled public housing projects and their replacement with much smaller, partially privatized developments known as mixed-income new communities. For many I met while conducting research on this experiment, “mixed-income” stood for something more. “Mixed-income is not exactly the right word,” one middle-aged white planner observed in 2003. “This is about finally integrating this city, block by block.” In Chicago “class” had become a metonym for “race.”2 “I feel just like the building, all brand new,” exclaimed one poster that featured an elderly African American woman named Camille Jackson. “Rats, faulty fire alarms, and peeling paint” had once riddled the Hattie Callner Senior Apartments, the building in which 2 INTRODUCTION Jackson lived. “Camille felt scared, and worse, like no one cared.” But after her building’s renovation, Jackson marveled at her new sinks andappliances.“There’sevenanatriumwhere shecanreadoradmire the city’s skyline,” the poster gushed. “Camille’s building has never looked better. And at the age of 66, neither has she.” Another poster featured an older African American lawyer named Charles Pinkston who mentored young people in the Robert Taylor Homes, the same public housing complex where he had grown up. “When Charles heard that Robert Taylor was to be rebuilt, he worried about its residents .Wherewouldtheystayinthe meantime?WouldtheybeOK?” Those fears were put to rest as he watched old friends and neighbors being “temporarily relocated to safe, clean neighborhoods.” “Thanks to changes the CHA is making,” the poster concluded, “he feels confident that other kids will find the same success he did.” IntheworldconjuredbytheCHANGEcampaign,changedthings and changed places would make for changed lives. But as much as encounters with changing places and things would change the lives of public housing residents, the campaign suggested that these encounters also stood to change the lives of those who had little to do with public housing. All these changes would turn on the reeducation of care.Weoftenunderstandcareasactivityundertakentomaintainand protect a person or thing. Jackson’s poster drew on this sense of care when it suggested that the CHA had failed to maintain her building. Yet even worse than feeling scared by dangerous conditions, Jackson felt “like no one cared.” She felt as if her fellow Chicagoans had grown indifferent to the CHA’s failures and to those who had to live with them. It was this second sense of care, of attention or concern paid to something, that a man I call Brian, a middle-aged African American man who had worked on the campaign, emphasized in early 2006.3 Brian told me that the campaign would “spark the conversations that Chicago needs to have about public housing” by inviting three different “spheres” of people to encounter it in unexpected ways. The first included current and former public housing residents . These were people who had “complicated feelings” about the places that had both sheltered and endangered them. Brian knew about those feelings. He himself had come of age in one of the city’s largestpublichousingcomplexesasitspiraledintoneglectandcrime. Brian’s “second sphere” included Chicagoans who lived near the projects, people who maybe blamed project residents for destroying their buildings and neighborhoods. His “third sphere” included “strangers to public housing.” These were people who might also not hold its residents in high regard, if they held them in any regard at all. 3 INTRODUCTION For Brian, encounters with images and narratives focused on the “normal things” public housing residents do—read, teach, go to school—alongsidethe verybuildings theydidtheminwouldprovoke changes thatwouldreverberate acrosshisthree spheres.Publichousing residents would take more pride...


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MARC Record
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