Abstract

Abstract:

Although dramatic scenes of residential integration abound within midcentury American fiction, this essay makes the case for attending to less spectacular narratives of residential segregation, including forms, manuals, and maps that captured the more impersonal processes of observation used to uphold the more generally steady-state of US residential apartheid. In turning to the category of the report at the heart of this material, I argue that neighborhood observation at midcentury was an inherently racialized act that not only responded to race but changed the ways it was counted and valued. Focusing on three types of reports—a series of appraisal manuals designed to train burgeoning appraisers in racial reading, Jane Jacobs's Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), and Gwendolyn Brooks's urban reportage, "They Call It Bronzeville" (1951), questioning the mechanics of neighborhood observation in the wake of its professionalization—I insist that the story of how systems of neighborhood and racial appraisal shaped one another is not just one for historians and urbanists to tell. It is also, fundamentally, a story about how idioms of perception, value, and taste undergirding home ownership and neighborhood value in the United States have been organized by race.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 211-234
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-26
Open Access
No
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