What does gentrification look like? Can we even agree that it is a process that replaces one community with another? It is a question of class? Or of economic opportunity? Who does it affect the most? Is there any way to combat it? In Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies (Verso, 2022), Leslie Kern travels from Toronto, New York, London, Paris, and San Francisco and scrutinises the myth and lies that surround this most urgent urban crisis of our times.

First observed in 1950s London, and theorised by leading thinkers such as Ruth Glass, Jane Jacobs and Sharon Zukin, this devastating process of displacement now can be found in every city and most neighbourhoods. Beyond the Yoga studio, farmer’s market and tattoo parlour, gentrification is more than a metaphor, but impacts the most vulnerable communities. Kern proposes an intersectional way of looking at the crisis that seek to reveal the violence based on class, race, gender, and sexuality. She argues that gentrification is not natural. That it cannot be understood in economic terms, or by class. That it is not a question of taste. That it can only be measured only by the physical displacement of certain people. Rather, she argues, it is a continuation of the settler colonial project that removed natives from their land. And it can be seen today is rising rents and evictions, transformed retail areas, increased policing, and broken communities.

But if gentrification is not inevitable, what can we do to stop the tide? In response, Kern proposes a genuinely decolonial, feminist, queer, anti-gentrification. One that demands the right to the city for everyone and the return of land and reparations for those who have been displaced.

Louisa Hann recently attained a PhD in English and American studies from the University of Manchester, specialising in the political economy of HIV/AIDS theatres. She has published work on the memorialisation of HIV/AIDS on the contemporary stage and the use of documentary theatre as a neoliberal harm reduction tool. She is currently working on a monograph based on her doctoral thesis. You can get in touch with her at louisahann92@gmail.com.

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