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Revue canadienne d’études américaines 33 (2003) 171 Patell, Cyrus, R. K. Negative Liberties: Morrison, Pynchon, and the Problem of Liberal Ideology. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2001. Robertson, Roland. Globalization: Social Theory and Global Theory. London: Sage, 1992. Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. New York: Anchor, 2000. Tomlinson, John. Globalization and Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999. Varsava, Jerry. “The Dancer, the Suicide, and the Gnome in the Attic.” Rev. of The Body Artist by Don DeLillo. National Post 3 Feb. 2001: B10. –––. “The Dialectics of Self and Community in Morrison and Pynchon.” Contemporary Literature 43.4 (2002): 749-803. Revisiting City and Race Thompson, Heather Ann. Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2002. Pp. 368. Gotham, Kevin Fox. Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience, 1900–2000 Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2002. Pp. 208. Lee, Jennifer. Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2002. Pp. 256. As usually told, the narrative of America’s urban decline is stark, simple, and depressing. The anti-urban fable goes something like this: Following the Second World War, white urbanites decided they preferred the suburban estate to the urban tenement, and began their inevitable march out of the central cities. The long ride down gained velocity when black liberals and radicals vied for control of – and ultimately derailed – America’s urban centres in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the mostly-black neighbourhoods of the inner city are characterized by unremitting conflict, the city’s ethnic groups constantly teetering on the edge of racial warfare. This blinkered yet surprisingly widespread fantasy of inevitable white flight, inexorable decline, and war-zone inner cities is disputed head-on by three new books on race and the American city. Though their authors hail from different disciplines, set their works in disparate time periods, and research different cities, taken together they provide a valuable corrective to the usual teleological Canadian Review of American Studies 33 (2003) 172 “decline and fall” history. Against these assumptions, Kevin Fox Gotham details “the role of the real estate industry and federal housing policy in the development of racial residential segregation and uneven development” (1); Heather Ann Thompson argues that the Northern urban crises of the late 1960s and early 1970s were “indicative of promise, not inevitable collapse” (8); and Jennifer Lee explains that today, rather than “bubbling cauldrons of racial animosity , with African Americans pitted against Koreans and Jews” (72), poor inner-city neighbourhoods are characterized by a civility and “ordinariness” that merchants and customers work hard to maintain. All of these studies suggest that a volatile combination of self-interest , mistrust (even within racial/ethnic groups), and political ineptitude , paralysis, or even downright complicity with racist ideology set off the run for the suburbs and the problems of the remnant who stayed behind. But the best of them nuances the argument, recognizing that there are many contributory causes (of which racism is one) and that an essentially Manichean view of urban issues merely recasts the problems into the familiar Bart Simpson theory of race relations: “I didn’t do it!” Whereas in the 1960s, Detroit was a Model City for the Great Society , in recent years it has become a model city for scholars. Historian Heather Ann Thompson’s savvy book Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City is yet another in a steady stream of studies of Detroit and race coming in the wake of Thomas Sugrue ’s Bancroft Prize–winning Origins of the Urban Crisis (1996). Recent or forthcoming works on Detroit from scholars such as Kevin Boyle, David Freund, John Hartigan, and Suzanne Smith, to name a few, demonstrate the city’s fertility as both microcosm of urban America and unique historical location.1 In her own study, Thompson pairs the related stories of racial tensions and struggles in Detroit’s trade unions and in city politics during the 1960s and early 1970s, taking advantage of the convenient overlap between Detroit urban history and studies of industrialization and the labour movement . Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Detroit city...


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