Urbanism without Guarantees

The Everyday Life of a Gentrifying West Side Neighborhood

2020
Author:

Christian M. Anderson

Urbanism without Guarantees

A unique more-than-capitalist take on urban dynamics

Christian M. Anderson offers a new perspective on urban dynamics and urban structural inequality based on an intimate ethnography of on-the-ground gentrification on a single street in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Anderson proposes new ways to think and act critically and organize for transformation of a place—in actions that local residents can start to do wherever they are.

From a long-term immersion on an (extra)ordinary block on the Westside of NYC, Christian M. Anderson demonstrates how the blunt powers of urban restructuring are intricately nestled in the jostling of everyday compositions of things through which collectives are made—collectives stitched and woven by the everyday efforts to keep social violence at bay, which can both support and undermine new forms of living, and which then demand a new politics of those spaces in-between.

AbdouMaliq Simone, The Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

Vigilante action. Renegades. Human intrigue and the future at stake in New York City. In Urbanism without Guarantees, Christian M. Anderson offers a new perspective on urban dynamics and urban structural inequality based on an intimate ethnography of on-the-ground gentrification.

The book is centered on ethnographic work undertaken on a single street in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen in New York City—once a site of disinvestment, but now rapidly gentrifying. Anderson examines the everyday strategies of residents to preserve the quality of life of their neighborhood and to define and maintain their values of urban living—from picking up litter and reporting minor concerns on the 311 hotline to hiring a private security firm to monitor the local public park. Anderson demonstrates how processes such as investment and gentrification are constructed out of the collective actions of ordinary people, and challenges prevalent understandings of how place-based civic actions connect with dominant forms of political economy and repressive governance in urban space.

Examining how residents are pulled into these systems of gentrification, Anderson proposes new ways to think and act critically and organize for transformation of a place—in actions that local residents can start to do wherever they are.
Urbanism without Guarantees

Christian M. Anderson is associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington at Bothell.

Urbanism without Guarantees

From a long-term immersion on an (extra)ordinary block on the Westside of NYC, Christian M. Anderson demonstrates how the blunt powers of urban restructuring are intricately nestled in the jostling of everyday compositions of things through which collectives are made—collectives stitched and woven by the everyday efforts to keep social violence at bay, which can both support and undermine new forms of living, and which then demand a new politics of those spaces in-between.

AbdouMaliq Simone, The Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

Conceptually rich, artfully crafted, and with a striking immediacy, Urbanism without Guarantees offers a compelling analysis of the meanings of urban change from the perspective of ordinary residents.

Christine Hentschel, Hamburg University

Urbanism without Guarantees

Contents

Introduction: Situating a Struggle

I. Renovating and Making the Urban Question Critical: Toward a Parallax Urbanism

1. Fateful Leaps: Flipping the Script on Rent Gaps and Revanchism

2. Unsettling the Urban Question

3. The Contingencies of Civic Action, Revisited

4. The Hitch, or, Performative Infrastructure

II. Place-Embedded Stories and Other Incitements to Parallax Urbanism

5. A Brief (Infrastructural?) History of West Forty-Sixth Street

6. Specters, Traditions, and the Dominance of Common Sense

7. Battles, Contradictions, and Good Sense

Conclusion: This Hegemony Is a Drag

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index