Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Live and let live: Negotiating difference in a diverse urban neighborhood
by Perry, Evelyn M., Ph.D., Indiana University, 2010, 181; 3423690
Abstract (Summary)

Inequalities in the United States are often rooted in place. Researchers have convincingly demonstrated that persistent racial and economic segregation constrains social mobility, access to opportunities and efforts to achieve a higher quality of life. Many advocate increased residential integration as a policy goal. However, the long-held view of heterogeneous communities as unstable and conflict-ridden suggests that such communities are vulnerable to resegregation. Integration, the conventional wisdom goes, is desirable but not sustainable. Yet demographic trends (globalization, immigration, decreased segregation) are contributing to increases in the number and stability of diverse neighborhoods. Because these increases are relatively recent, the processes contributing to the durability of neighborhood heterogeneity have received little scholarly attention.

Through a case study of Riverwest, a racially- and economically-mixed neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I address two linked research questions: How do residents of a socially-diverse community negotiate difference? How does Riverwest maintain its social diversity? I combine three years of ethnographic fieldwork and 60 in-depth interviews to illuminate patterns in neighborhood interaction processes and neighborhood negotiation strategies, and investigate processes of conflict and cohesion.

My analyses indicate that neighborhoods play a significant role in shaping how residents define and negotiate difference—and that investigating these boundary-drawing processes is key to understanding social organization and intergroup relations in diverse neighborhoods. Riverwest's location as a buffer neighborhood between concentrated disadvantage and concentrated privilege produces tensions that require continual management. Living with difference is a stream of confrontations, resolutions, accommodations and collaborations. Local culture provides a shared rubric for neighborhood navigation that influences residents' everyday practices: their social control strategies, interactions with neighbors, and interpretations of their proximate environment. As a result, residents are able to produce a tentative social order without sacrificing their neighborhood's distinct social diversity. I argue that this tentative order also contributes to the durability of neighborhood heterogeneity. Instability, in this case, contributes to stability.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Robinson, Robert V.
Commitee: Armstrong, Elizabeth A., Gieryn, Thomas F., Pescosolido, Bernice A., Suttles, Gerald D.
School: Indiana University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social structure, Urban planning
Keywords: Culture, Integration, Intergroup relations, Neighborhood, Social organization, Urban, Urban neighborhood, Wisconsin
Publication Number: 3423690
ISBN: 9781124247380
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