Making Postindustrial Cities in North America
Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
|Thursday, February 2, 2017||4:00PM - 6:00PM||208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place|
CSUS and F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Speaker Series
Contemporary narratives of the decline of basic industry make the postindustrial transformation of old manufacturing centers seem inevitable, the product of natural business cycles and neutral market forces. Using Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, Ontario, as case studies, this talk offers a different interpretation, one in which local political and business elites collaborated to create postindustrial places well in advance of the economic malaise of the 1970s. As public resources dwindled, city officials made harsh calculations about whose needs they would no longer meet, rather than seeking to better meet the needs of all residents. They faced difficult choices and, seeing no other way forward, made decisions about how to allocate resources in a way that exacerbated inequality and sacrificed the well-being of large portions of urban populations in order to “save” cities. Mayors, planners, and business and civic leaders fostered a shift from cities as pluralistic places where skilled, high-wage manufacturing took place alongside commercial and financial enterprises to urban centers that served as entertainment zones, where white and middle-class suburbanites went for a convention or for dinner and a baseball game.
Tracy Neumann is an Assistant Professor of History at Wayne State University. She specializes in transnational and global approaches to twentieth-century U.S. history, with an emphasis on cities and the built environment. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Urban History, and she is the author of Remaking the Rust Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
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