With such high levels of residential segregation along racial lines in the United States, gentrifying neighborhoods present fascinating opportunities to examine places with varying levels of integration, and how people in them navigate the thorny politics of race. Among the many conflicts revolving around race under gentrification is crime and its relationship with the displacement and marginalization of a neighborhood’s existing low-income minority groups.
Contributing to this conversation is sociologist Jan Doering, whose new book Us versus Them: Race, Crime, and Gentrification in Chicago Neighborhoods (Oxford University Press, 2020) examines the strategic practices of two groups in that city’s Rogers Park and Uptown neighborhoods: “public safety” advocates, or people who were very concerned with crime and active in a variety of local initiatives to address it; and “social justice” advocates, or people who were more concerned with resisting gentrification and keeping their neighborhood racially and socioeconomically diverse.
In documenting their efforts and clashes through three years of fieldwork, Doering focuses on two forms of racial claims-making each camp of residents uses to make its case: racial challenges, or charges of racially problematic behavior, and racial neutralizations, or any defensive or reparative responses to racial failings. Revealing links between how anticrime initiatives can amplify gentrification and contribute to marginalization through the invocation of race as they negotiate the politics of crime and gentrification, the book provides a highly nuanced, and quite timely, analysis of everyday battles over racial meanings with great resonance for today’s political climate.
Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), and editor of Urban Ethnography: Legacies and Challenges (Emerald, 2019) and Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012).
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