GOVT 1101: There Goes The ‘Hood: Gentrification in American Cities

Jan 26, 2015 · 16 min read

Instructor: Diane Wong

From East Harlem in New York City to Chinatown in San Francisco, the process of gentrification has changed many neighborhoods across America. In this seminar we will consider the various definitions of gentrification and explore the explanations of why the process occurs in the first place. More specifically, the reading materials will 1) investigate the relationships between gentrification and issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality and 2) consider the role of local policy and elected officials in the process. The course will include contemporary readings from scholars whose work has influenced multiple disciplines, including ethnic studies, anthropology, history, geography, sociology, and economics. As we read these texts, students will be exposed to intersectional and comparative approaches to the study of race, politics, and culture in urban America. How does gentrification reinforce social and racial hierarchies in the United States? What factors contribute to a neighborhood’s gentrification? What can we do about gentrification? To answer these questions we will look closely at the impact of gentrification in New York City.

We will also consider the ways in which residents respond to the process in their own neighborhoods. From the assigned materials, students will have the opportunity think about the tactics of resistance that immigrants of color and racialized minorities use to combat the negative effects of gentrification. At the end of the semester, students will have a more complete understanding of how complex and contradictory local politics is, as well as how local policy decisions can have a durable impact on everyday life. This course will offer students the opportunity to develop an original research project that applies theoretical knowledge to urban issues related to gentrification: displacement, residential segregation, environmental racism, homelessness, police violence, and mass incarceration. The seminar will use one introductory textbook and draw on music, film, photography, and digital media to provide alternative perspectives. In addition, students will have the opportunity to learn about the Cornell University Hip Hop Collection, Africana Studies and Research Center, as well as learn from community organizers based in the Ithaca area.

Required Text

1. Lee, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. Gentrification. London: Routledge.
2. Strunk, White, and Kalman. 2007. The Elements of Style Illustrated. London: Penguin Books.

Other required texts will be posted through Dropbox. There will also be in class film screenings.

Writing Goals

The writing assignments required by this First-Year Writing Seminar will help you to develop competency in the following areas:

- Using Sources, including the ability to synthesize the central argument, identify different types of sources, and appropriately cite a text
- Constructing Persuasive Arguments, including the ability to formulate theses, critique arguments from a variety of disciplines, and clearly organizing evidence
- Writing with Style, including the ability to use proper mechanics, write with clarity, and employ a variety of writing styles to suit academic and professional pieces
- Preparatory Writing Strategies, such as the ability to draft, review, and peer-review

Course Requirements

Attendance: This seminar is designed to be student-centered, consistent attendance is necessary for you to successfully understand the course material. I require regular attendance and will keep track of absences. You are allowed one unexcused absence from class. Each additional unexcused absence will reduce your participation grade by one third of a letter. If you are unable to attend due to illness or emergency you must notify me before section begins to have your absence excused.

Reading: The weekly readings for this class are scaled down to provide you with ample time to complete the writing assignments. It is expected that you will complete all assigned reading before class on the day for which it is assigned. Bring the readings with you to class. It will be beneficial to be able to refer to specific pages when you or your classmates discuss the respective texts.

Participation: Engaging in the material will help make this course more interesting and relevant for you and your classmates. I expect that everyone will contribute to our conversations, you should be ready to discuss the readings assigned for each week. I foster a relaxed classroom environment and hope that students will come to class prepared to listen and challenge one another in a respectful manner. The politics of gentrification can be a divisive topic, but differences in opinion provide an opportunity for intellectual growth. I understand that students have different comfort levels in terms of speaking up in the classroom. If you find yourself feeling this way, I encourage you to see me during office hours so that we can discuss strategies for increasing your class participation.

Discussion: I will ask each of you to lead the beginning of our discussion at least once over the course of the semester. To prepare for this, you are expected to e-mail me a 1-page memo the day before you present. Your memo should be based on the week’s readings and should include questions that will provoke a substantive discussion. This requires you to read extra closely for that week and to be prepared to share your reflections at the start of class for 15 to 20 minutes.

Instructor Conferences: The final course requirement is your participation in two one-on-one meetings with the instructor about your progress. While I hope that you will take advantage of my office hours, these two meetings are mandated by the Knight Institute and will contribute to your overall participation grade. The first conference will occur shortly after you submit your second assignment. During this conference we will discuss the first two assignments. The second conference will take place in early April.

Assignment Overview

Assignments should be double-spaced, using font size 12 and 1-inch margins. Unless otherwise notified in advance, all assignments should be handed in hard copy. If you are submitting an assignment via e-mail it must be in PDF format. Do not consider an e-mail assignment turned in until you have received written confirmation from me. Late assignments will be docked one third of a grade for each day after the due date they are turned in. If you feel that you will not be able to submit an assignment on time due to illness, emergency, or a conflict with work required for another course please let me know in advance. I understand that your first year can be a very stressful time, and I am happy to work with you to make reasonable accommodations when necessary. The six major writing assignments are described in detail below:

Short essays: The primary goal for this course is to develop your ability to write. I will assign five short writing assignments throughout the semester. The assignments will allow you to critically analyze the weekly themes and to explore different styles of writing.

Essay 1: a 1–2 page essay on your interest in the class: When was the first time you heard the word “gentrification,” and what do you think about it? What about gentrification is of particular interest to you that you would like to conduct research on over the course of the semester? Ungraded. Due on January 26.

Essay 2: a 1–2 page observation essay on everyday life in Ithaca. Read Krase’s article with special emphasis on his ethnographic methods and detailed writing style. I will ask you to select a social site on campus or in Collegetown, preferably one in which some sort of daily activity is going on. When you are at your site, I will ask you to record field notes to explore issues related to people-place interaction, social identity, and space sharing. You will be in this location for roughly one to two hours. Once you leave your site, you can go over your field notes and incorporate additional observations. You will create a narrative essay based on your observations about an incident that you experienced or witnessed. Ungraded. Due on February 11.

Essay 3: a 3–4 page analytical essay that evaluates the positive and negative aspects of gentrification. I want you to take a clear position: do you think that gentrification is a positive or negative process? Bring in evidence. Writing an analytical essay requires you to make an argument. The core of this argument is called a thesis. To back up your thesis argument, I want each of you to engage the different theoretical frameworks and debates from our readings and class materials. 15% of final grade. Due on February 25.

Essay 4: a 4–5 page critical essay that examines who is most affected by gentrification. I want each of you to select a neighborhood in New York City that we discussed in class or a gentrifying neighborhood of interest to you. I want you to think of gentrification as an intersectional issue. Your essay should incorporate readings from weeks 7-10 to substantially engage issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, inequality, and environmental justice. How do different communities in the area experience gentrification? What experiences are specific to the neighborhood that you are writing about? You will need to conduct some background research on the neighborhood you decide to write about. Finally, I want students to think about solutions, and whether or not it is possible to develop a neighborhood without dealing with negative consequences. 10% of final grade. Due on April 8.

Essay 5: a 4–5 page mixtape essay. You will put together a mixtape on which you will list 5 carefully selected songs related to the topic of gentrification. You should pretend that the person who listens to your mixtape did not take this course and is not familiar with the issues discussed in our class. Your mixtape will be their introduction to the topic. To accompany the mixtape, you will turn in an essay — the first page will be a summary of your “mixtape” to include a list of track titles and one paragraph explaining the issues your mixtape addresses and why you believe it provides a good overview of the issues related to gentrification; the rest of the paper will discuss the importance of each song, and identify the key issues that it addresses. You should pull out particular lyrics to support your analysis. We will dedicate class time to discuss your mixtapes and listen to them. 15% of final grade. Due on May 4.

Research paper: I will assign a 8 to 10-page research paper due at the end of the semester. The paper will allow students to select a topic of interest that critically engages issues related to gentrification in American cities. Students are expected to draw from academic sources and to discuss relevant themes from the assigned readings or other course materials. The paper is broken down into three smaller parts: 1) a 1–2 page research proposal and annotated bibliography due on April 13; 2) an in class peer review session on April 15; 3) a paper draft due on April 22. I will schedule individual conferences with you to work on the research proposals. To become more effective writers, I will also make time during class to provide you with the opportunity to peer-review each other’s papers. More detailed assignment guidelines will be distributed in class. 30% of the final grade. Final version due on May 15.

Reflection essay: I will ask each of you to submit a 1–2 page reflection paper at the final class. The paper should identify the most important lessons gained from the course and how you intend to use these insights in future work or academic development. The paper should include your thoughts, reactions, concerns, or ideas inspired by our conversations. 10% of the final grade. Due on May 6.

Grading Policy

The six writing assignments together account for 80% of your grade, while participation constitutes the remaining 20% of the final grade. Your final grade will be determined based on the following breakdown:

Essay 3………………….15%
Essay 4………………….10%
Essay 5………………….15%
Reflection Essay……10%
Final Paper……………30%

Other Course Information

Email Policy: Feel free to email me with questions or to set up an appointment outside of office hours. Longer discussions and all conversations about grades must take place in person. I will guarantee a response to emails within 24 hours during the school week and will check my e-mail more frequently the day before assignments are due. However, do not wait until the last minute. There is no guarantee that I will receive, read and be able to respond to last minute requests or questions.

Electronics: Laptops and tablets will be allowed for tasks relevant to the class. I expect that you will abstain from texting, sending emails, and doing other work during class.

Campus Resources

Knight Institute’s Walk-in Service: The Writing Walk-In Service (WWIS) provides support for individuals at any stage of the writing process. It is a free resource designed for undergraduates working on nearly any kind of writing project: applications, presentations, lab reports, essays, and more. Writing tutors serve as responsible listeners and can help you develop either general writing skills or discuss a particular written assignment. The WWIS operates out of several campus locations. More information can be found at

Cornell University Learning Strategies Center: The Learning Strategies Center offers students a variety of resources for improving basic study skills, learning time management strategies, and managing the academic experience. You can find more information online at

Student Disability Services: Students will disabilities may contact Student Disabilities, Cornell University, 420 CCC, 254–4545. Cornell University is committed to assisting those persons with disabilities who have special needs. Other questions or requests for special assistance may also be directed to both offices. You can find more information online at

Statement of Nondiscrimination

It is the policy of Cornell University actively to support equality of educational and employment opportunity. No student should be denied admission to any educational program or be denied employment on the basis of any legally prohibited discrimination involving, but not limited to, such factors as race, gender, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age, or disability. The university is committed to the maintenance of affirmative action programs that will assure the continuation of such equality of opportunity. Sexual harassment is an act of discrimination and will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity

A student assumes responsibility for the content and integrity of his or her academic work in any course. Students are guilty of violating the Cornell Code of Academic Integrity and are subject to proceedings under it if, for example, they:

1. knowingly represent the work of others as their own;
2. use, obtain, or provide unauthorized assistance in any academic work;
3. fabricate data in support of laboratory or field work;
4. forge a signature to certify completion of a course assignment or recommendation to graduate school;
5. unfairly advance their academic position by hoarding or damaging library materials;
6. misrepresent their academic accomplishments.

Plagiarism constitutes knowingly misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. This includes offenses like buying a paper off the Internet, as well as appropriating another author’s words or ideas without proper citation. General citation guides are available on the Knight Institute or the Cornell library websites. If you have questions about sources and citation, please ask me in advance.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction

Wednesday, January 21
*No Required Reading

Week 2: What is Gentrification? Definitions and Key Concepts

Monday, January 26
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “The Birth of Gentrification” in Gentrification, pg. 3–35.
* Assignment 1 is due

Wednesday, January 28
* Beauregard. 2010. “The Chaos and Complexity of Gentrification” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 11–23. [through Dropbox]
* Smith. 1996. “Is Gentrification A Dirty Word?” in The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City, pg. 30–47. [through Dropbox]
* Badger. 2014. “It’s Time to Give Up the Emptiest Word in Urban Policy

Week 3: Explaining Causes of Gentrification

Monday, February 2
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “Producing Gentrification” in Gentrification, pg. 39–86.
* Smith. 1979. “Towards a Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital, not People” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 85–96. [through Dropbox]

Wednesday, February 4
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “Consumption Explanations” in Gentrification, pg. 89–128.
* Ley. 1994. “Gentrification and the Politics of the New Middle Class” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 134–150. [through Dropbox]

Week 4: Transformation of Space into Place

Monday, February 9
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “The Mutilation of Gentrification” in Gentrification, pg. 129–161.

Wednesday, February 11
* Krase. 2007. “Riding the Bus in Brooklyn: Seeing the Spectacle of Everyday Multicultural Life” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 237–258. [through Dropbox]
* Flores-Gonzalez. 2001. “Paseo Boricua: Claiming a Puerto Rican Space in Chicago” in Centro Journal, pg. 7–23. [through Dropbox]
* Perez. 2002. “Gentrification and the Social Construction of Place in Chicago” in Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, pg. 27–68. [through Dropbox]
* Assignment 2 is due

Week 5: Gentrification: Positive or Negative? Pt 1.

Monday, February 16
* No Classes — February Break

Wednesday, February 18
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “Gentrification: Positive or Negative” in Gentrification, pg. 195–236.

Week 6: Gentrification: Positive or Negative? Pt 2.

Monday, February 23
* Whyte. 2010. “The Case for Gentrification” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 452–454. [through Dropbox]
* Byrne. 2003. “Two Cheers for Gentrification” in Howard Law Journal, pg. 405–432. [through Dropbox]
* Freeman and Braconi. 2004. “Gentrification and Displacement: New York City in the 1990s” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 361–374. [through Dropbox]
* New York Times. 2014. “The Pros and Cons of Gentrification — Room for Debate

Wednesday, February 25
* Davidson. 2014. “Is Gentrification All Bad?
* Padilla. 2014. “A Response to Davidson: There is No “Sweet Spot” for Displacement
* In Class Film: Quinceañera
* Assignment 3 is due

Week 7: Gentrification, Race, and Ethnicity

Monday, March 2
* Martucci. 2013. “Williamsburg Walks: Public Space and Community Events in a Gentrified Neighborhood” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 89–112. [through Dropbox]
* Bontemps. 2013. “Southside Story
* Carleson. 2014. “Spike Lee’s Rant About Hipsters’ Gentrifying Brooklyn
* Che. 2013. “Inside Joke: Get The Fiji Water, Son

Wednesday, March 4
* Older. 2014. “Gentrification’s Insidious Violence: The Truth About American Cities
* McIntosh. 1989. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
* Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 2013. “Chinatown Then and Now: Gentrification in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia
* Kuang. 2014. “The Chinatown You Think You Know Isn’t Real
* Hung. 2014. “Chinatown as Disneyland? The Future of an Ethnic Space

Week 8: Poverty and the Class Conflict

Monday, March 9
* DeSena. 2013. “Gentrification in Everyday Life in Brooklyn” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 65–88. [through Dropbox]
* Taylor. 2002. “Can You Go Home Again? Black Gentrification and The Dilemma of Racial Difference” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 211 — 219. [through Dropbox]
* Freeman. 2006. “Introduction” in There Goes the ‘Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground, pg. 1–16. [through Dropbox]

Wednesday, March 11
* Patillo. 2007. “The Black Bourgeoisie Meets the Truly Disadvantaged” in Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, pg. 81–110. [through Dropbox]
* Anderson. 2012. “Hood Politics: Charter Schools, Race and Gentrification in Forte Greene” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 363–378. [through Dropbox]
* Zimmerman. 2013. “Outrage Over Separate Doors for Rich and Poor in Manhattan High-Rise

Week 9: Gender, Sexuality, and Gentrification

Monday, March 16
* Lauria and Knopp. 1985. “Toward an Analysis of the Role of Gay Communities in the Urban Renaissance” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 272–284. [through Dropbox]
* Cahill. 2007. “Negotiating Grit and Glamour: Young Women of Color and the Gentrification of the Lower East Side” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 299–314. [through Dropbox]
* Fed Up Honeys. 2014. “Makes Me Mad Report: Stereotypes of Young Urban Womyn of Color

Wednesday, March 18
* Ferreira. 2014. “I’m Not a Fucking Museum: Young Women’s Perception of Gentrification” in Bushwick was mine: Bushwich es mio”: Gentrification and Emotional Displacement of Latinas, pg. 29–47.
* In Class Film: Flag Wars

Week 10: Environmental Injustice and Green Gentrification

Monday, March 23
* Gould and Lewis. 2007. “The Environmental Injustice of Green Gentrification: The Case of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 114–146. [through Dropbox]
* Speri. 2014. “Bronx Activists Fight Against ‘Environmental Racism’ to a Global Stage
* Carter. 2006. “Greening the Ghetto

Wednesday, March 25
* Farrell. 2007. “The Gowanus Canal: Local Politics of “Superfunding” Status” in The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, pg. 185–209. [through Dropbox]
* Berger. 2005. “From Open Sewer to Open For Gentrification
* City Limits. 2014. “Not Even Toxic Waste Can Stop Gentrification: NYC’s Superfund Neighborhoods are Booming
* Kat Yang Stevens, founder at Groundwork for Praxis and Ithaca based organizer guest lecture
* Assignment 4 is due

Week 11: Spring Break

Monday, March 30
* No Class — Spring Break

Wednesday, April 1
* No Class — Spring Break

Week 12: Redlining, Blockbusting, and the Politics of Gentrification

Monday, April 6
* Massey and Denton. 1993. “The Construction of the Ghetto” and “The Persistance of the Ghetto” in American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, pg. 17–59. [through Dropbox]
* Rothstein. 2014. “The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of its Troubles

Wednesday, April 8
* Coates. 2014. “The Case for Reparations
* In Class Film: My Brooklyn

Week 13: Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang: New York City’s Underground

Monday, April 13
* Chalfant. 2006. “From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale” [watch from 26:00 to 56:00]
* Meet with Ben Ortiz, Assistant Curator of the Hip Hop Collection

Wednesday, April 15
* Soto. 2012. “Gentrifying New York City’s Underground
* Daniel Vidal Soto, New York City based community organizer guest lecture

Week 14: Strategies for Resistance

Monday, April 20
* Hartman. 2010. “The Right to Stay Put” in The Gentrification Reader, pg. 531–541. [through Dropbox]
* Newman and Wyly. 2006. “The Right to Stay Put Revisited: Gentrification and Resistance to Displacement in New York City,” in Urban Studies, pg. 23–57. [through Dropbox]
* Angotti. 2013. “Five Things You Can Do About Gentrification in New York City
* Final Paper proposal due

Wednesday, April 22
* Morse. 2014. “Bros Attempt to Kick Kids Off Mission Soccer Field
* Valencia. 2014. “The Kids Who Came to City Hall
* Buzzfeed. 2014. “What It’s Like to Lose Your Home to Gentrification
* San Francisco Anti-Eviction Mapping Project
* Dexter Thomas Jr., scholar of hip-hop and contemporary culture guest lecture on the mixtape assignment
* Final paper peer review in class

Week 15: Local Narratives in New York City

Monday, April 27
* No Classes — Charter Day

Wednesday, April 29
* Freeman. 2014. “There Goes the ‘Hood” in There Goes the ‘Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up, pg. 59–94. [through Dropbox]
* Final Paper draft due

Week 16: The Future of Gentrification

Monday, May 4
* Lees, Slater, and Wyly. 2007. “ The Future of Gentrification” in Gentrification, pg.239–277.
* Mixtape “Listening Party”
*Assignment 5 is due

Wednesday, May 6
* Tom Slater. 2006. “The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30(4): 737–757. [through Dropbox]
* Reflection Essay is due

Exam Period

Friday, May 15
* Final Paper due

    Diane Wong

    Written by

    Educator, multimedia storyteller, and cultural organizer in NYC.

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