Gentrification by design : rhetoric, race, and style in neighborhood "revitalization”
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Stories about communities being displaced by gentrification in the name of revitalization and redevelopment are commonplace today and despite its many drawbacks, gentrification remains a pervasive mode of city growth and strategy for development. An analytical and interventionist project, my research is concerned with illuminating the disparities gentrification engenders, questioning the common assumptions and general wisdom shared on the topic, and ultimately critiquing this increasingly accepted form of urban change. At the heart of my dissertation I ask how gentrification has become such a powerful hegemonic force and aim to examine how rhetoric and communication have been employed in an agenda that marks serious change for neighborhoods with grave consequences for community members and public life. With this goal in mind, I develop a theoretical lens for exploring gentrification at the intersection of hegemony, whiteness, and style and develop a methodological approach for studying the rhetorical style of gentrification. Austin’s gentrifying East Riverside Drive and 11th and 12th Street Corridors serve as case studies for this research and I examine a range of artifacts and texts from community meetings, to slide presentations, architectural renderings, community surveys, articles in local publications, and neighborhood planning strategies. The analyses conducted in both case studies highlight the power of style in shaping discourses, opinions, the articulation of problems and solutions, and public sentiment about gentrification. I ultimately argue that gentrification is a rhetorical style that has been put to use to legitimize displacement and wholesale redevelopment, perpetuates inequalities, and has lasting impact.