Christi, Valerie, and Faith's Community Keyword Project

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The Dynamics of Community Development

We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race. -Cicero


The term community is complex and pervasive in nature and consistently referred to as embodying a sense of “caring, cooperation, equality” (Joseph, 57). It is not so concrete or evident in relation to both class and demographic displacement or renewal concerning gentrification within changing communities. Community according to Raymond Williams [1] is a relationship, common people holding something in common, people of a district, a sense of common identity and relationships (75). It evolves from the word commune (Williams, 75). Williams states, “Community can be the warmly persuasive word to describe an existing set of relationships, or the warmly persuasive word to describe an alternative set of relationships” (76). Therefore, if we could possibly read into this definition we would also see that community is what we as individuals make of it. It could be a common group of individuals, a neighborhood or local watering hole. What happens when all of these things change? It is a transformation of a community network. It can have the positive thresh hold and a negative outcome. The key element is in the perspective of those that live within the shifting dimensions of the urban and rural environments. Due to this dynamic, it is dangerous and risky to make a claim about whether this transformation is good or evil. Our hope is that this page will show the many faces of the impact development can have within our communities, in order to give the reader the right to his or her own opinion. In addition, we hope that we can shed light on the possibilities for the development of community collaboration, due to these shifting environments and their impact on the surrounding individuals.

Keywords and Community

File:Factory and suit.jpg
factory worker and suit
When mapping through the keywords community article page there is a broad variety of resources tied to community. Representations like the ways the media impacts our view of community, political leaders using the term as a tool for campaigning with the “warm fuzzies” to gain public support, and even the educational system trying to instill a common rule system and code based on the idea of happy communities, just to name a few. In addition to these thoughts, we see our own cohort, BCULST 500, trying to define ways in which we can tie our academic work to engage in social change for our communities. Through the discussions and article, we still notice that there might be a tendency to idealize what community might be. By bringing up the hardship of rural or urban gentrification [2], we would like to add that the demographic social structures based on economic prosperity and racial exclusion within community makes it difficult to engage in such a way that is not ridden with discouragement and social tension. Yet we are faced with the present positive tone to a changed community within the realm of community development [3]. This is essentially the same as the terminology of gentrification yet turned into a positive tone of urban renewal which provides a progressive approach to community. Key elements that interconnect within both of these realms of clarification of community are capitalism, race, class, advocacy and democracy. In addition to this tension within community, there are historical, racial and political actions that perpetuate the ambiguities and difficulties constellating around this key term.

Introducing Gentrification

To look more closely at one of the key elements of community, gentrification is the movement of one class within another class’s normal environment. The product of this can be quite negative. It could lead to increase of rent and public domain spaces leaving. While gentrification described in terms of the physical and social changes that result, the characteristics of social change associated with gentrification vary from place to place. Research done 10-15 years ago you see an undeniably negative over tone associated with gentrification. It gave the evil prominence of one class moving in and taking over another class. According to David Lampe, “slum clearance has been a strategy for the transformation of the urban landscape since the 1930s, but it acquired momentum after 1949, through the Urban Renewal Program [4], under this policy, municipalities were invited to target areas for renewal, demolish all substandard housing, and sell the cleared land to developers” ( 363).

However, a more positive approach to gentrification can be seen as community development. Community development is the process of urban planning as an organized and precise way. It is the political arena of strategizing the movement and creation of human living. It is the positive spin of gentrification that is seen and heard through popular medium.

When examining both of these terms, there is a possibility that there are ways, in which the formations of housing developments and economic landscaping can become exclusionary, even when the intention is to boost economic growth and renewal. Yet the positives should show reflection as a means for community change. Democracy

Marcuse on Community Change

It is never mentioned that ethnic cultures are sometimes creating areas of living that appear more friendly to those within a certain race or a means that enforce a particular class of individual. However, that is a reoccurring factor within this realm of a changing community.

According to Peter Marcuse (1997)[5], there are new patterns that are shaping the urban areas of today’s cities (311). Marcuse (1997) describes four different distinct areas: traditional ghetto, new ghetto, enclave and citadels (311). A traditional ghetto is an area of residence that is a “confinement of residents” and is desired by the dominant class of society because that confinement or control facilitates is a ripple effect into residents' activities, “activities that further dominant economic interests” (Marcuse,1997, 311). The new ghetto according to Marcuse (1997)is a “ghetto in which race is combined with class in a spatially concentrated area where residents' activities are excluded from the economic life of the surrounding society” (311). This new ghetto does not profit significantly from its presence, but is a barrier of confinement to its residents and controlled by “dominant interests out of fear that their activities, not controlled, may endanger the dominant social peace” (Marcuse, 1997, 311). An enclave is quite different in that its residents concentrate in a area are normally self defined by ethnicity, religion, sexuality and congregate as a way of enhancing their economic, social, political, and cultural development (Marcuse, 1997, 311).As listed above under changing views of domain and community, Peter Marcuse mentions the intentional change to live with individuals that share a common thread. Here is a website dedicated for the Queer Community.[6]

A citadel is a concentrated area in which members of a particular group, defined by its position of superiority in class, power, wealth, or status in relation to their neighbors, live as a means of protecting or enhancing that position (Marcuse,1997, 311). It is assumed that the areas that are normally in the forefront of gentrification are the areas that are bought into by upper class individuals, essentially pushing out the lower class living within such an area.


This is a youtube video on our local (non)community tent city 4. How and who decides what and who gets to be a part of a community?

Class and Community

The American Dream seems to be harder to come to fruition than it used to be. It is true that you can still work your way to the top, and you can go to bed poor one day and wake up the next day and find yourself rich, but the “land of opportunity” seems to be disappearing. We buy weekly lotto tickets hoping that we will beat the extreme odds and somehow end up with something. Research has been showing that the separation between the poor and the rich is widening, and there is a debate among economists and sociologist as to why this is happening. One of the areas of the conversation stems around the fact that the wages at the bottom of the economic bracket are and have been stagnating for some time, while we have seen rapid growth at the top of the scale (Kenworthy, 2004). This is relevant to communities because “class inequality falls across wealth, income, occupation, education, consumption, and health” (Foster, 2006).

In the past many thought class did not exist in America, the idea is referred to as "American Exceptionalism"

[Tammy's Story]

It is through these institutions that class advantages/disadvantages are transmitted. With this gap increasing and the institutions aiding the problem, we have a large new group of people staggering on the line of making it and barely making it. Researchers are referring to this group as the near poor. The only way to help the struggling poor communities and the near poor neighborhoods is to invest in the people and their neighborhoods. Katherine Newman and Victor Chen from the sociology department of Princeton and Harvard advise in an essay that this can be done by creating policies, and encouraging grocery stores, retailers, health institutions to come into the neighborhoods that need them the most (Newman, Chen, 2007). Collaboration

In addition, we cannot be inclusive to just class when discussing effects of community development. We must bring into light the ever-changing dynamics of a cultural shift. It seems to be happening within the boundaries of cities walls. Yet as a community is developed physically, how can we state what one is more important than another? This development benefits some and runs the risk of displacing others. The responsibility lies with those involved in the process of development, possibly giving others who are impacted the right to voice opinions about the end result. They must be heard, or decisions could end negatively.

Displacement of Communities

A historical example of extreme displacement is seen clearly with the Native American community. When referring to Native Americans, we must give voice to Alexis De Tocqueville’s [7] description of their experiences in the 19th century. The conquest of land through colonialism left the “savage” with nothing. He describes the ways that Europeans “dispersed their families, obscured their traditions, and broke their chain of memories” (1968, p.318). While Europeans viewed their actions as a form of “civilization”, the Natives fell victim to “civilization”, capitalization, and individualistic greed. Through this great national travesty, and relations with their future generation, we are seeing an important opportunity and need for academic study and research. Robert Warrior (2008) in Keywords for American Cultural Studies addresses the lack of scholarship and media attention as another problem equated with this community. As many tribal communities have experienced, Warrior sees Native Americans and their communities as a people who “are mostly invisible to the people with whom they share the world”(2008, 134). Warrior also brings up the importance of their visibility in academia. Warrior states, “Without Native American Literature there is no American Canon” (2008, 134). Their beautiful and culturally rich voices have been silenced, in not only the lack of academic research, but also the isolation they have experienced, due to the formation of reservations. If we are looking at the idea of community as an option for all to participate in, then we must give voice to those, like Native Americans, who have faced impossible odds trying to integrate or participate in their own environment as a result of racial and cultural discrimination.

Obama in Montana on Native American Community

[8] Obama's speech on Native Americans. [9] Native Americans against Obama.

Can Community Change Work?

Some scholars have challenged the question ‘does gentrification harm the poor?’ They would argue that it is a determinant in regards to whether gentrification results in a neighborhood that is original residents found preferable, if they were owners or renters (Freeman, 2008,186). If the residents were predominantly owners, they would stand to benefit from a rise in property values, especially those on low income (Freeman, 2008, 186). If their forced to leave their home, some could find themselves in an improved situation, where the results to gentrification would be an improved tax base that could improve neighborhood amenities and services; and offer changes in employment opportunities (Freeman, 2008, 186). One factor that does not change is the fact of displacement as referred to by our example to the negative impact it could have. | Community

File:Journal of community dev.jpg
Hope for equality in development
However, the negative aspects of displacement through gentrification are not always purposeful or black and white. There are positive aspects within the negative. It can be experienced as a cultural shift that is slowly done over time for a group of people to live in a cohesive blend and melting pot of configuration. It could be the average person realizing that they have financial limits, choosing to find a home that has “old” characteristics, and improving them. It is not just condominiums and townhouses, but individuals making conscious choices for surroundings that benefit them, due to race or sexual preference. The question is; can the negative aspects really be avoided through efforts to include the marginalized communities? As long as discrimination occurs in certain communities will there be a continual need for others to migrate where they find acceptance, or a “common” watering hole, as mentioned before? Whether this term is spun into urban development, renewal, or even gentrification, what we need to acknowledge is that community has complex layers surrounding it and in reality we should explore it in greater depth in order to break the surface of this shifting and fluid concept.

Community Development Society[10]. This link provides an example of hope for inclusion in the process of community change.

References and Working Bibliography

De Tocqueville, Alexis. "Democracy In America." Trans. George Lawrence, Mayer, J.P., ed. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. p 318.

Foster, John Bellamy. "Aspects of Class in the United States: An Introduction." Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine. July - August, 2006.

Freeman, Lance. “Comment on 'The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 32n1. P 186-191. March 2008. Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Washington. 21October 2008 <***bin/fulltext/119403664/main.html,ftx_abs>

Joseph, Miranda. “Community.” Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. New York and London: New York University Press, 2007. 57-60.

Kenworthy, Lane. "The Unequal Society: Rising Inequality Not a Surge at the Top." Challenge. Sept - Oct, 2004.

Lampe, David. "The role of gentrification in central city revitalization.” National Civic Review. 82. n4 (Fall 1993): 363(8). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Washington. 21 Oct. 2008

Marcuse, Peter. “The ghetto of exclusion and the fortified enclave: new patterns in the United States. (The Changing Spatial Order in Cities).” American Behavioral Scientist . 41. n3 (Nov-Dec 1997): p 311. Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Washington. 21 Oct. 2008 <>

Newman, Katherine s. and Victor Tan Chen. "The Crisis of the Near Poor." The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oct 5, 2007.

Warrior, Robert. “Indian.” Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. New York and London: New York University Press, 2007. 132-135.

Williams, Raymond. "Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society." New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press, 1985. p. 75-76.