Gender in an Urban World: Volume 9


Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Edited by

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Edited by

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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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In the United States, the 1960s and 1970s are characterized as a period of social revolutions. The dictates of social institutions and expectations of everyday life were scrutinized and questioned. The young and not so young mobilized and protested for civil rights, students’ rights, women's rights, against the war in Vietnam and for improvements in city neighborhoods. These movements themselves and the social order they ultimately created were organized, analyzed, debated, and theorized within universities, thus serving as an impetus for change within the academy. One major change was the development of departments devoted to black studies, ethnic studies, and women's studies. Scholarship dealing with minority groups was thereby legitimized. This trend continues with the addition of gay, lesbian, and queer studies.

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In Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989), Jurgen Habermas argued that the public sphere in a democratic capitalist society is the conceptual arena in which private persons deliberate about public matters. Habermas's public sphere is a voluntary political enterprise that exists independently of either the state or the economy. Theoretically inclusive and accessible to all, it is the arena in which matters are decided collectively for the good of the entire society. The public sphere is the place, in fact, where the definition of “public good” is determined. For Habermas, the ideal public sphere flourished with the ascent of the liberal middle-class of the 19th century, but has declined in the contemporary era of mass media and consumerism.

Post-war Italy faced a transition from industrial reconstruction to a phase of mature capitalism characterised by massive internal migrations towards the north of the country. A rapid urbanisation process created large dysfunctional areas at the periphery of the main re-industrialising cities like Milan, Genoa and Turin. In particular Milan has been defined as the capital of the Italian economic miracle (Foot, 2001). But during the 1950s Milan's extended industrial areas were subjected to main socio-spatial transformations: from being a mix of industrial and rural communities just after the war, the peripheries of Milan turned into deprived areas lacking basic services and infrastructure during the 1970s, when social conflicts were increasingly rising. From 1968 to 1977 Milan was also one of the main stages of a cultural revolution that in Italy uniquely assumed deep political implications by undermining the fundamental institutions of the state (Balestrini & Moroni, 1988).

Maria Anacleta described her life in Milan as follows (Maria Anacleta dictated the text in English, and the words in italics refer to Italian terms she used):I am a Filipina, I am [Maria Anacleta]. I came to Italy (…) with two of my friends. (…) I saw Rome, France, the Eiffel tower. My brother met me in Rome. Then I visited my Mom. My Mom was here in Milano [Milan], I saw her, I have been in the house with my mother and brother for seven months.When I found a job, I worked in _ [a city a few hours south of Milan]. My employer in _ died, but my soggiorno [work and resident permit] was ready. I met many Filipino people here and when I have no job, I work as a parrucchiere [hairdresser]: I cut their hair, and manicure them, to earn money.Now, after 3–4 years, I am very lonely, I remember my family, I want to return, but I have to wait for the renewal of my soggiorno. I cannot go home without my soggiorno because without it I cannot come back anymore.(…)When I was in the Philippines, cutting hair was really my job. That was what I did. And I made my children study. (…) One of them is a nurse, one studied in the hotel business, and one is in computer. (…) My husband worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. I am in the Philippines, I am in my shop, I am cutting hair, together with my children. They are still very young. He worked in an oil factory in maintenance, as a power plant operator. When he finished, he came to the Philippine and I told him “ok, you are finished working, so I will be the one to work, I will be the one to go abroad because I haven’t been.”

Consider two images of gender and power in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia: the market seller and the king.1 These images, stereotypical and contradictory, represent the pervasive antinomies that have served to organize analysis of male and female roles within the household and beyond in Java. Careful attention to the lives of women and their movements through the dense urban neighborhoods known as kampung on the central island of the Indonesian archipelago reveal both the limits of these characterizations and some of the interesting reversals that occur based on class and community, especially the community as organized by the Indonesian government.

In the post-industrial American city, consumption and women play new and crucial roles. As service, tourist, shopping, and entertainment industries take prominence over or supplement the more explicitly male industrial and financial industries, women entrepreneurs have become significant actors in the city (Benson, 1988; Green, 1997). Femininity overlaps with bourgeois values in gentrification, giving women's actions a special import (Jackson & Thrift, 1995). The ‘ladies’ of gentrification produce new interpersonal dynamics on the streets and sidewalks, helping to facilitate neighborhood change, spread safety and stimulate new community ties.1 This analysis is based on a multi-year field study and extended interviews of the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City. In the past decade, this ethnic working-class neighborhood's primarily male industrial landscape and female domestic sphere has been supplanted by new mixed-gender, quasi-public spaces. Drawing on Jane Jacobs’ concepts of “eyes on the street” and “public characters” (Jacobs, 1961), I characterize women entrepreneurs as “faces on the street” who serve a key role in the transformation of neighborhood streets. This study focuses on the role of women in the gentrification process as an attempt to address the broader issue of the role of women in urban studies (DeSena, 2000; Leavitt, 2003).

One cannot think about suburbia without considering at the same time its intrinsic point of reference, namely the modern capitalist industrial city of the 19th century. As is generally known, disastrous social, sanitary, and hygienic conditions prevailed especially in the growing working class neighborhoods. These quarters were regarded as places from which considerable dangers for public order, health, safety, and morals emanated. At the same time, large parts of the middle classes interpreted the growing social meaning of the industrial city, in comparison to that of the countryside, as a menacing omen of the working classes gaining political power.

The nature of immigration to the United States has varied tremendously over the course of the last 100 years. While the rate of immigrants in comparison to the total population was as high as 14% in the early 1900s, it steadily declined due to regulations passed at the beginning of the First World War reaching its lowest point in 1970 at less than 5% (Bernard, 1998). Yet, ever since the early 1970s, in response to the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments that replaced national-origin quotas with a single annual worldwide ceiling for all other immigrants while eliminating any numerical limitations for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the number of immigrants has been continuously on the rise. In 1996, about 1 of every 10 residents in the United States was foreign born. This is exemplified by the fact that more than one fourth of the present foreign-born population of the United States arrived after 1990 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2004).

In the seemingly perpetual battle among cities to secure economic growth, one strategy has gained increasing credence of late: luring the Creative Class. The argument, promulgated by Professor of Economic Development Richard Florida (2002a, pp. 4–5), suggests that human creativity is now the “decisive source of competitive advantage” and cities can thrive by tapping and harnessing such creativity. The primary ingredients in this sweeping recipe for urban success are a group of young, mobile, diverse, ‘creative’ professionals, who constitute a social class of their own, according to Florida's popular book, The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). This Creative Class – if cities can attract and retain it – operates as its own economic machine, producing jobs, enhancing productivity, and increasing the overall well being of the city, Florida argues. From an urban economic development perspective, the role of the city is to create the conditions in which this Creative Class and associated industries can flourish.

In the post-industrial economies of large urban centers, redevelopment has become the primary engine of economic growth. Redevelopment projects are designed to encourage investment, attract tourism and bring new residents to the city. This form of city building is driven by a neoliberal urban agenda that embraces privatization, and is controlled by the economic interests of private business. In this chapter, we argue that city building under a neoliberal rubric is also a gendered political process, the outcome of which is the redevelopment of urban space in ways that reflect a masculinist and corporatist view of city life. Moreover, both the form of redevelopment and the process itself function to limit public participation in the life and growth of cities, particularly for women and other marginalized groups. In the first section of this chapter, Gendered spaces of redevelopment, we examine how the results of such a process are made manifest in the built form of Canada's largest city, Toronto, with a population of 2.5 million. The city is experiencing a major process of redevelopment and city building that is evident in a massive wave of condominium construction. We suggest that condominium projects, as a particular form of redevelopment, create privatized spaces and encourage privatized services that articulate neatly with a neoliberal urban agenda.

The use and appropriation of public spaces is one of the fundamental aspects to be taken into account in research on the daily lives of the men and women who live in cities. This experience is not the same for everybody since factors such as sex, age, social class and ethnic and cultural identity affect the way in which urban life is experienced and perceived. We define public spaces as places of interrelation, social encounter and exchange, where groups with different interests converge (Borja & Muxí, 2001). Where they are used by a great diversity of people and for a wide variety of activities, public spaces can contribute to the collective identity of the community (Valle, 1997; Franck & Paxson, 1989). They have the capacity to become “participatory landscapes”, core elements in urban life that reflect our culture, beliefs and values (Francis, 1989).

In recent decades, processes of postindustrialization, economic restructuring, and globalization have been transforming the landscape of social and economic inequalities in general (Wade, 2003), and in urban settings in particular (Baum, 1997; Fainstein, 1990; Sassen, 1990a, 1991, 1998; Waldinger, 1996). The role of cities as strategic sites in the globalization process and as arenas of economic transformation is central in the literature of globalization and economic restructuring (Fainstein, 2000; Sassen, 1988, 1998).

About the Authors

Pages 319-322
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Book series
Research in Urban Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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