[URBANTH-L]Is Diversity Bad for Cities? (Sam Beck)

Greenbaum, Susan greenbau at cas.usf.edu
Fri Aug 10 15:06:14 EDT 2007

There is no mention of class in this account, and diversity seems a little ambiguous.  I have not been able to get a copy of this latest article, and I will be very interested to read it.  
The study that we just concluded on interaction between relocated public housing residents and their new homeowner neighbors has similar results and comes to similar conclusions, but we don't see this as some amorphous malaise borne of ethological aversions.  Homeowners are fearful about economic losses in the value of their property and threats to the safety of their families.  They have absorbed all of the stereotypes about low income African American women and their children, and they stoke those fears with various types of hostile actions.  That this bold experiment in creating "mixed income communities" seems not to work does not, however, mean that unlike people cannot live together.  It does suggest that social engineering of the sort that Putnam has helped to promulgate is ill-considered and possibly masks other agendas, and that we should focus more on ensuring equity of opportunities and overall improvments in neighborhood based services, rather than uprooting poor people and scattering them across the landscape in search of some formula that will cure their alleged cultural shortcomings.


From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu on behalf of Angela Jancius
Sent: Fri 8/10/2007 12:23 PM
To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
Subject: [URBANTH-L]Is Diversity Bad for Cities? (Sam Beck)

From: Sam Beck <sbeck at med.cornell.edu>

This is an important article and has to be taken seriously by all of us.  I
have not read the book, but the article made me think of some
anthropological responses.

1.  this is a correlation study, not cause and effect.  there is no possible
way for him to have accounted for all variables that impact on the issue he
is investigating.  It seems like there is no mention of class issues here.

2.  to varify what he presents it would be necessary to carry out
ethnographic research among a variety of communities.  Surveys are notorious
for reductionisms of all sorts.  We need to make some observations of
people's behavior, rather than self-reporting.

3.  He does indicate an understanding of historical issues by indicating
that this might only be something occurring in the moment, but may not be a
long-term trend.  Yet, it seems that he does not indicate the conditions and
forces and processes involved in bringing this particular issue into being.

4.  I only have anecdotal evidence.  In New York City and in Providence, RI,
I have found people of various ethnic and racialized groups to be forming
communities.  He seems to have his own sense about what a community looks
like and when he cannot find people who resonate to that sense of community,
civic engagement is absence.  This is troubling.  Communities come into
being as a result of some very specific events and processes, otherwise
civic engagement processes can lie dormant.

In any case, some idea and some discussion points.

Thanks for sending the article.


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