Online First: The Social Construction of a Gentrifying Neighborhood Reifying and Redefining Identity and Boundaries in Inequality

The Social Construction of a Gentrifying Neighborhood

Reifying and Redefining Identity and Boundaries in Inequality

  1. Jackelyn Hwang1

  1. 1Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Jackelyn Hwang, Department of Sociology, Harvard University, William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Email: jihwang@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

This study draws upon cognitive maps and interviews with 56 residents living in a gentrifying area to examine how residents socially construct neighborhoods. Most minority respondents, regardless of socioeconomic status and years of residency, defined their neighborhood as a large and inclusive spatial area, using a single name and conventional boundaries, invoking the area’s black cultural history, and often directly responding to the alternative way residents defined their neighborhoods. Both long-term and newer white respondents defined their neighborhood as smaller spatial areas and used a variety of names and unconventional boundaries that excluded areas that they perceived to have lower socioeconomic status and more crime. The large and inclusive socially constructed neighborhood was eventually displaced. These findings shed light on how the internal narratives of neighborhood identity and boundaries are meaningfully tied to a broader structure of inequality and shape how neighborhood identities and boundaries change or remain.

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