University of Notre Dame

History of American Gentrification

Course Number: HIST 13184-11
Instructor: Mike Amezcua

Welcome to the University Seminar, this course will introduce you to the idea of gentrification, and its evolving history in the United States. Gentrification, can be considered a process by which urban space is reorganized along an uneven socioeconomic and racial axis to privilege and serve the needs of the most advantageous class. This process touches both economics and culture. The long history of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States has spurred “back to the city” movements as a result of both federal and free market “fixes” since the very founding of the earliest American cities. However, during the late twentieth century, this term came into prominence when in the absence of industrial mass production and in the aftermath of deindustrialization, cities and neighborhoods underwent a re-branding as consumable experiences ripe with “authenticity.” The former inner city districts that long sheltered communities of color and poor migrants after World War II became sites of failed federal policies during the 1950s and 1960s that further produced more, rather than less, segregation. The fiscal crisis of the 1970s generated new urban policies that effectively curtailed services to the inner city and created subsidies for gentrification and redevelopment in hopes of altering shifts in population that would bring to the city a new class of urban consumers. In this seminar students will explore the long history of American gentrification, the political economy that shaped it, the voices and memories of those displaced, and the romance of authenticity that supplanted poverty. Students will also learn to interpret primary sources in this subject through written assignments and consider the historiographical debates about retelling this aspect of a seemingly recent American history.

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November 09 Majors Night