Cityscape Number 4, November 19, 2019

Cityscape is The Metropole’s monthly shortcut to recent, forthcoming, or overlooked writing, exhibits and film.

The City in Print

Cover of A Place to Call Home by Ernesto CastañedaA Place to Call Home: Immigrant Exclusion and Urban Belonging in New York, Paris, and Barcelona

By Ernesto Castañeda. Stanford University Press, 2018.

A study conducted over 14 years comparing the assimilation experience of African and Latino émigrés in three distinctly different cities.

A Haven and a HellA Haven and a Hell: The Ghetto in Black America

By Lance Freeman. Columbia University Press, 2019.

The black ghetto in the North since the 1880s. Communities of confinement and repression, but also energy, creativity, and hope.

ChokedChoked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution

By Beth Gardiner. University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Comparative histories of London, Los Angeles, New Delhi, the San Joaquin Valley, Berlin, and the expanding cities of China in their common/shared struggle to deal with air pollution.

9780190853860The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Urban History

Edited by Timothy J. Gilfoyle. Oxford University Press, 2019.

A monumental 1700-page anthology of narrative and interpretive essays encompassing the full sweep of American urban history from densely populated prehistoric settlements to the modern metropolis. 

The City on the Web

The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children

By Quentin Brummet and Davin Reed. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, July 2019.

Brummet and Reed conclude that “Gentrification has increased substantially over the past two decades, reversing decades of urban decline. More specifically, concern that gentrification displaces or otherwise harms original neighborhood residents has featured prominently in the rise of urban NIMBYism and the return of rent control as a major policy option. … [However] we find that many original residents, including the most disadvantaged, are able to remain in gentrifying neighborhoods and share in any neighborhood improvements. Perhaps most importantly, low-income neighborhoods that gentrify appear to improve along a number of dimensions known to be correlated with opportunity, and many children are able to remain in these neighborhoods.”

Lucrative flips exploit the poor, naive. Unregulated entrepreneurs scour poor, gentrifying neighborhoods for real-estate heirs, pay them low-ball prices, and resell the properties for huge profits.

By Jacob Adelman and Craig R. McCoy, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 29, 2019.

Adelman and McCoy report that “As long-disadvantaged Philadelphia neighborhoods skyrocket in value, entrepreneurs … target heirs a generation or more removed from their relatives’ real estate and often unaware of its worth. They select abandoned lots and rowhouses in the path of revitalization, identify the people in line to inherit, and … After acquiring the real estate cheap, they make a killing by reselling the properties at a big gain, or by collecting generous ‘assignment fees’ for transferring negotiated purchase rights to developers….”

Celluloid City

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Directed by Steve James (2017)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. failed to indict any executive of a major financial institution for involvement in the 2008 subprime mortgage scandal. But Vance Jr. did go after Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small bank in Chinatown, for alleged criminal lending activities in the neighborhood. The film chronicles the five-year battle fought by the Sung family to vindicate the bank and the community.  Shades of It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). Abacus was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary, 2018.


Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia

The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

October 18, 2019 with indefinite run

The 1918 pandemic killed nearly 700,000 Americans and millions worldwide. Philadelphia was so hard hit that by the fall of 1918 the flu was killing a resident every five minutes.

Enigmatic Stream: Industrial Landscapes of the Lower Mississippi River

The Historic New Orleans Collection

September 17, 2019 to April 5, 2020

Before development sprawled along highways, it did so along rivers. Over the past two decades, Richard Sexton photographed the natural beauty, the petrochemical corridor, and various industrial, residential and commercial developments along the banks of the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.


Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture

By Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd. Harcourt Brace Javanovich, [1929] 1959.

Of the numerous 20th-century studies of American communities, Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown (Muncie, Indiana) cannot be matched for readability and for its analysis of how, between 1890 and 1930, urban society was transformed by indoor plumbing, the automobile, electricity, the radio, the telephone, movies and unprecedented high-school attendance. Note the uncanny resemblance between Middletown and Sinclair Lewis’s sardonic novel, Babbitt (1922).

What’s your take on Cityscape?

What are you reading, viewing or looking forward to? Do you want to write a review? Let us hear from you.

Jim Wunsch, Bob Carey, Eric M. Rhodes, and Jacob Bruggeman

Featured Image: Latin American cityscape in valley, Detroit Publishing Company, ~1890-1910, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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