Constructions of Urban Space: Volume 5


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

This case study suggests that tourism as a mode of revitalization for Harlem is not just a strategy put forward by the local business community or adopted by the Empowerment Zone, nor is it a new phenomenon. Tourism emerged at a time of economic restructuring; it was shaped by global trends, and it has continuity with an earlier period of internationalization. Now, as in the past, Harlem's chief attraction is its cultural capital, based in part on difference or cultural “otherness“ and mediated by the popular culture and entertainment industries.But unlike the past, Harlem's present attraction is also its aggregate buying power. This interacts synergistically with the developing tourism industry. The the combination of globalization and saturated suburbia, together with the shift from standardized mass markets to flexible specialization and niche marketing—the hallmarks of post-Fordism, signal the penetration of areas bypassed and thus marginalized by corporate capital at an earlier industrial phase. Although this raises the question of wether we are talking about development or tourism, in reality both residents and tourist use facilities such as movies, shopping centers, and retaurants, and the power of tourism derives, in part, from the difficulty of disentangling the two uses.14The question of “whose Harlem” still remains. One hypothesis is that tourism may be a leveling force, helping to rebalance or reverse the type of uneven spatial development that Harlem symbolizes, and leading to a new industrial geography. But local control is clearly limited by the nature of the forces involved. Where local critics may see “conspiracy,” Deborah Wright, former head of the Empowerment Zone, sees capitalism and says: “One of the basic tenets of capitalism is that you can't control it” (Johnson 1998).

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Research in Urban Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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