Gentrification is often studied in vignette. These snapshots of gentrification often show communal downsides of urban development and the displacement that follows therein. In Japonica Brown-Saracino’s A Neighborhood That Never Changes, the participants of gentrification are studied and reveal new attitudes and concerns that may not seem inherent. Brown-Saracino makes the crucial distinction of urban-pioneers with social homesteaders and social preservationists in the gentrification process, revealing a spectrum of attitudes, rather than a binary metric of judgement. By studying the two Chicago neighborhoods in contrast with the New England towns, Brown-Saracino reveals an array of smaller scale gentrification practices. This however leads to the question central to this post: what are the critical differences between these small scale gentrification paradigms and those in larger cities and communities? Can this paradigm be effectively applied to larger cities?
My attempted answer:
Regional variations are defining characteristics in urban environments and the socio-economic make up of neighborhoods vary greatly. Brown-Saracino showed that these types of gentrifiers are relatively universal within these smaller scale settings, although varying proportionally by region. In larger scenarios, urban pioneers likely dominate the urban landscape when the real estate markets permit. Clearly, not all gentrification is universally harmful. But does it require multiple players to have a healthy outcome? Essentially, do urban pioneers habitually need the social preservationists to ensure success? Likewise, can social preservationists really exist in a vacuum with no urban pioneers?
Interestingly, one of Brown-Saracino’s conclusions is that even in these smaller study areas, social homesteaders do not stand in the way of gentrification as as social preservationists do. This is revelatory as to the ethos of long-time residents affected by changing social conditions. This laissez-faire attitude makes may make way for the urban-pioneers to gain vested interest in the area, and have greater say, whereas in smaller, more remote neighborhoods, the social-preservationists may have more of a chance to act on their beliefs.
In all, these conclusions reached by Brown-Saracino can be applied to larger study areas, though done so with other variations and proportions of gentrifiers. They represent broader patterns of groups of people in the gentrification process, although it is difficult to say how specifically to apply the small town models to situations of other scales.