Prison Abolition in 2038

amst335- final paper


The passage of time can has proven to have massive impacts on frequently contested policy issues. Actions and decisions are not merely trendy headlines for media outlets; rather, the changes undergone to institutions and policy issues have the ability to reconstruct the spaces that define our day to day lives. People and social institutions are responsible for creating and defining social spaces, including determining who has access/is excluded. Throughout history, societies have grappled with the question of crime and punishment – whether they are shaping legal principles or structuring the institutions that enforce implemented legal standards. Public safety is highly prioritized as necessary to having a society in which people can lead lives void from constant fear. Often times, communications and representations of crime in society are etched with the intention of instilling a sense of fear that you could possibly fall victim to criminal activity. Responses to crime have varied historically, and prisons as a social space reflect trends in viewpoints as well as political agendas.

Today in 2038, the abolition of prisons has resulted in a drastic shift in the social meaning of this physical space as well as the idea of punishment. Prior to this monumental decision, the utilization and expansion of prisons were justified on the grounds that they (1) aimed to rehabilitate incarcerated individuals to be able to be functioning citizens in society and (2) protected the public against criminals. However, several facts demonstrate that the structures of prisons were not conducive to meeting fulfilling the goals used to justify the creation and maintenance of prisons. Prison abolition as a policy action has resulted in substantial improvements in public safety as well as addressing the various social issues often at the root of criminal activity. The transformation of this space – and subsequently the meaning of punishment – has reshaped the world in which people and families live.


Part 1: Prison as a Social Space

            Before prisons became a critical aspect of the United States criminal justice system, extremely forms of corporal punishment were utilized as a response to criminal activity. Yet, as the nation developed, the shift to adopt prisons and hard labor over physically violent punishments was seen as necessary to the moral fabric of the country: prisons were viewed as a more humane option that was still considered an effective deterrent of crime. Angela Davis discusses the transformation of forms of punishment, citing the widely believed notion that “labor was a means towards a moral end.”[1] The use of hard labor was conceived as a form of corrective punishment, where the individual convicted did not face immediate, blunt violence; rather, they became workers in various prison-based jobs. As the country fixated itself on the idea of morality, corporal punishment became outdated as cruel and inhumane – the same logic used to challenge slavery. However, the structure of prisons in the United States has frequently been challenged on the basis of being inhumane, from the physical conditions of the facility to cruel punitive tactics adopted by prison officials. There are several aspects of the foundation of the prison system that render it inherently against standards of human decency. The documentary 13th explains the ways in which the prison system has both historically and contemporarily been used as a racially discriminatory tool against people of color. Throughout this film, DuVernay explains the link between the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery and the system of mass incarceration that expanded the prison system.[2] The literal language of the amendment did not completely ban slavery because it includes a clause that permits slavery as a punishment of crime, thus they system of slavery shifts from the plantation to the prison using the very legal protections to ban this inhumane practice. There are several laws and events throughout history that show a pattern of using reform to deflect immense social issues – such as race, poverty, etc. Slavery – like corporal punishment – was challenged on the basis of being inhumane, yet prisons carried out and exacerbated the racialized forms of punishment consistent with American practices. Alexander Mitchell’s The New Jim Crow thoroughly addresses the ways in which the War on Drugs and mass incarceration disproportionately impacts communities of color and serves to recreate and reflect the same racist ideologies contained in slavery and Jim Crow segregation.[3] Imprisonment as a form of punishment was historically rooted in targeting marginalized groups such as people of color and the working class (think of debtor’s jail). As an institution, prisons have served to punish those in society do not have the identity and/or resources to circumvent the law.

Our history illustrates that people in society are responsible for shaping what constitutes crime and what forms of punishment should be applied. Slavery and corporal punishment shifted to extended imprisonment with hard labor, which reflects society’s ability to create and alter spaces and their meanings. Chapter 9 in The People, Place, & Space Reader outlines the ways in which spaces are the result of social production. This chapter discusses Lefebvre’s three parts of socially produced spaces –  spatial practice, representations of space, and representational space – that explain how spaces are produced and subject to change over the course of time based on shifting social patterns.[4] Applying this logic to the social production of prisons, it is possible for one to understand the ways in which the meaning of this space has consistently been portrayed as necessary to public safety but in reality served to punish certain groups. The daily routines inside prisons (spatial practice) reinforce control, separation, violence, and inhumanity, including the use of solitary confinement and denial of basic human rights. However, the way prisons were represented aimed to show them to be spaces where people who committed crimes could be rehabilitated. Often, this was the rhetoric used to justify expanding prisons and utilizing disciplinary tactics such as solitary confinement. As a representational space, people harped on prisons as a space that ensured public safety by locking away people deemed criminals, which was vital as media communications focused on misleading crime statistics that painted a picture of terror that required a remedy: prison expansion was the prescription.

The social production of prison as a space was complex, as it was thought to provide public safety, yet the prison system – as well as facilities – denied groups of people safety and basic human decency. In order to understand the ways in which punishment and prisons have shifted, it is important to consider the three aspects of spatial production as well as the social patterns that inform our daily lives. Racially discriminatory practices as a social pattern have manipulated the structure of punishment in this country – from slavery to mass incarceration. In addition to racially informed social patterns, class inequality fueled the ability for a prison industrial complex to solidify prisons as a source of economic revenue, shifting the meaning of this space from one of rehabilitation to one for profit. Countless resources have gone in to creating and maintaining a space that reproduced the same social issues that prisons claim to rehabilitate – it’s no wonder people released from prison were vastly unable to obtain employment and function as “productive” persons when reentering society.[5] Over time, challenges to the use of prison as a space resulted in uncovering the racial and class-based motivations of this system. Marginalized groups that were impacted by the grip of this system were not able to achieve significant prison reforms because this issue was commonly associated with a group not deemed “vulnerable” and/or conflicted with political agendas.[6] Reforms were band aid solutions to deeper issues; thus, the abolition of prisons was vital to tackling these pervasive social issues.


Part 2: Effects of Prison Abolition

Since the abolition of prisons, there have been several changes in to world around us. Many people feared that eliminating prisons as a space would result in rampant crime and unsafe living conditions for the public. However, prison abolition has had the exact opposite effect in that societies and communities are safer, more wholesome places to settle and/or start a family. The removal of this space has caused perspectives to shift towards acknowledging the social issues rendered invisible – under the cloak of ‘tough on crime’ politics – and has revealed historically overlooked social patterns.[7] Prison abolition as a policy action has led to substantive protection for communities of color – who faced excessive and brutal policing, imprisonment and staggering rates of recidivism.[8] The main impact of eliminating prisons as a space has been the elimination of mass incarceration and the ability for society to confront racial injustices. While prisons were portrayed as vital to safety, the stark reality of this space – and its associated practices – was a system that targeted and destroyed communities of colors. Cycles of recidivism often kept families apart, and the inability to obtain employment due to a criminal record perpetuated a cycle of poverty.[9] Prisons rendered these issues invisible because they were physically isolated from other social spaces and stigmatized the people within these spaces as undeserving and/or dangerous. With the elimination of these spaces, society has been able to better grapple with the issue of racial inequality. Communities of color are not the targets of excessive policing, which has also forced localities to implement alternative avenues to address the root causes of criminal behavior, whether it be education/employment assistance or rehabilitation facilities.

When society addresses the root causes of issues that may at times result in criminal activity, we are better equipped to keep the public not only safe but healthy. Prisons as a space served as a false sense of security, especially considering the ways in which marginalized groups were terrorized in these spaces and by the systems guiding them. Lessened incidents of police brutality have provided an avenue to repair the trust often broken in communities by authority figures such as the police. The elimination of prisons has also transformed other social spaces. For instance, the school to prison pipeline no longer removes students from the classroom and subjects them to harsh zero tolerance policies. Rather, the students who misbehave are met with the services needed to work through behavioral issues. The way that society deals with discipline is different now that being sent off to prison is not the one-size-fits-all solution being used.

Resources have drastically shifted in light of prison abolition. The costs to maintain and operate prisons were burdensome and wasteful to taxpayer dollars – considering prisons rarely met its stated goal of rehabilitating people. Now that the federal government and states no longer pour funds into prisons, there are more resources available for education, employment, affordable housing, health services, rehabilitation facilities, etc. Investing in these aspects of society creates a better quality of life for people, which in and of itself has served as a deterrent of crime. Prison abolition alone is not the only solution to tacking historically neglected social issues; rather, creating a balanced and more just society requires acting upon other policy areas simultaneously.


Part 3: Prison Alternatives and Future Prospects

            As prisons have ceased to exist, the world we live has started to become a better, safer, more equal place for everyone. No longer do certain communities face punishment while other communities receive services to support the personal issues that may lead to crime. As a result, society has become a safer place to start one’s adult life – including a career, family, etc.

As the years go on, it is imperative to continue to seek out social patterns rendered invisible by the structures of spaces. Education, healthcare, and employment are three areas of society that tend to be at the root of pervasive inequalities. It is only through a commitment to work towards bringing these issues to light and implementing solutions that long-term generational change can be sustained.


Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

New York: [Jackson, Tenn.] New Press; Distributed by Perseus Distribution, 2010.

Eilperin, Juliet. “Obama Bans Solitary Confinement for Juveniles in Federal Prisons.”

Washington Post. 2016.

Davis, A. Y. (2007). Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition. In A Companion to African‐

American Philosophy (eds T. L. Lott and J. P. Pittman).

Demby, Gene. “Imagining A World Without Prisons for Communities Defined by Them.”           National Public Radio. 2016.

Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder. “Recidivism of Prisoners

Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April 2014, NCJ 244205.

DuVernay, Ava, dir. 13th. 2016; Durango, CO: Forward Movement LLC, 2016, Netflix.

Gieseking, J.J., W. Mangold, C. Katz, S. Low, & S. Saegert (eds.). 2014. The People, Place, &

            Space Reader. New York: Routledge. (Chapters 9 and 10 used in essay).

McLeod, Allegra. “Prison Abolition and Grounded Justice.” UCLA Law Review. 2015.

Miller, Lisa L. Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime

Control. Oxford University Press: New York, 2008.

Yadin, Daniel. “More Than Prison Reform: Prison Abolition.” 2017.


[1] Davis, A. Y. (2007). Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition. In A Companion to African‐

American Philosophy (eds T. L. Lott and J. P. Pittman). 362.

[2] DuVernay, Ava, dir. 13th. 2016; Durango, CO: Forward Movement LLC, 2016, Netflix.

[3] Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

New York: [Jackson, Tenn.]: New Press; Distributed by Perseus Distribution, 2010.

[4] Gieseking, J.J., W. Mangold, C. Katz, S. Low, & S. Saegert (eds.). 2014. The People, Place, &

Space Reader. New York: Routledge.

[5] McLeod, Allegra. “Prison Abolition and Grounded Justice.” UCLA Law Review. 2015.

[6] Miller, Lisa L. Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime

Control. Oxford University Press: New York, 2008.

[7] Gieseking, J.J., W. Mangold, C. Katz, S. Low, & S. Saegert (eds.). 2014. The People, Place, &

Space Reader. New York: Routledge.

[8] Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder. “Recidivism of Prisoners

Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April 2014, NCJ 244205.

[9] Yadin, Daniel. “More Than Prison Reform: Prison Abolition.” 2017.

Home at the Hospital: The Spatial Politics of Maternity in America

The hospital and the home have evolved in close relation in the American spatial imagination. Until the mid-eighteenth-century, home was the place of healing for the majority of Americans who had means and family members to care for them. The first hospitals emerged as public facilities designed to house the homeless and destitute.[1] As America industrialized in the nineteenth century and modern medical science emerged, hospitals began expanding to serve a growing middle class without the time to care for family members.[2] In this way, hospitals evolved in tandem with the shifting economic and social formations of the home, which constitute the “domestic.” Instrumental to shifting imaginations of the domestic is the transfer of maternity care into the domain of hospitals, or the “medicalization” of birth. In this paper, I trace the ways spaces of maternity reflect contestations over women’s political autonomy, nationality, and the role of science. The maternity ward offers a vantage point on the ways differing scales of spatial embodiment overlap, in particular the national, the familial/domestic, and the bodily. The hospital offers a disciplinary space in which the private and public overlap and make private/bodily life open to institutional control. Despite this reality, recent interventions in critical geography have directed attention towards the hybridity of birth spaces and the intimate geographies of birth. Such research suggests ways women can engage creatively and agentically within the maternity environment.

Historical Context

            Birth in America occurred at home until the mid-eighteenth century, and it was almost always managed by a midwife or a woman’s female friends and family members.[3] Techniques of childbirth disseminated through networks of female kinship. The mid-nineteenth century saw the rise of obstetrics. Physicians, armed with new European medical knowledge and surgical tools, began a campaign to expand their profession and authority as experts on birthing practice.[4] This included re-defining birth as a pathological rather than a natural event, one which required advanced medical knowledge, and, often, facilities.[5]

During the transition from midwives to physicians, mortality rates rose as physicians made unnecessary surgical maneuvers and used anesthesia carelessly.[6] Hospital-borne infections posed a significant threat to mothers and infants. Bellevue Hospital in New York was the first to open a dedicated maternity ward, in 1799. During the 1870s, outbreaks of puerperal fever caused by physicians improperly sanitizing their hands after performing autopsies led Bellevue to move their maternity wards to another hospital and to institute a system of nurses to run the operations of the ward.[7] The expansion of the nursing profession saw women re-entering professional spaces of birthing in large numbers.

The process of medicalizing birth has been understood by feminist critics as bringing the processes of reproduction under male control. This process has tracked the expansion of medical authority as the ultimate voice on matters of reproduction and child rearing, a patriarchal intervention into what had previously been regarded as the “private” sphere, and the domain of women. Not until the 1950s and the expansion of female obstetrical nurses did women regain widespread agency in the ways of childbirth.[8]

Domesticity and Hospitality

            Witold Rybczynski has tracked the ways domesticity emerged in 17th century Netherlands as a middle class consolidated and the family became the main unit of social reproduction. The emergence of the bourgeois state saw the domestic unify meanings of home, household, and family into a set of meanings that manifested them spatially as the comfortably furnished home, impeccably maintained, neatly and thriftily decorated: a visual manifestation of the order and hierarchy of the family unit. As women became increasingly responsible for the maintenance of this household, the home became “a feminine place, or at least a place under feminine control.” He summarizes: “to speak of domesticity is to describe a set of felt emotions, not a single attribute. Domesticity has to do with family, intimacy, as well as with a sense of the house as embodying—not only harboring—these sentiments.”[9]

Domesticity’s discursive flexibility and the social and political centrality of the domestic sphere to American life makes it a key referent in the act of imagining spaces of healing. But the hospital’s engagements with and imaginings of domesticity also strain one of its key tenets: that of privacy and freedom from institutional control. The home is understood as domestic through its adherence to discourses of normalcy and citizenship. Hospitals offer entirely different spatial circumstances: they are public, professional, and sites of constant surveillance.[10] In the hospital, the state and medical institutions prescribe a model of domesticity as a form of institutional discipline. Early American hospitals distributed this discipline to citizens receiving care precisely because they have failed at incorporation into the proper domestic sphere of the nation.

Hospitals have proven instrumental in the proliferation of ideology on two scales of the domestic—both in the sense of the family unit and of the nation. Elizabeth Temkin has shown how the practice of “rooming-in” emerged during the Cold War in response both to practicalities of care as well as nationalist imperatives.[11] During the late nineteenth century, hospitals began moving babies from their mothers’ rooms to central nurseries to avoid infection.[12] Due to nursing shortages in the 40s infants had again begun to room with mothers, and in the 50s a whole new set of cultural and political rationalizations for the practice emerged. Rooming-in became the figurehead for a new cultural project that foregrounded a romantic sense of a “natural,” affectionate style of parenting that stood in stark contrast to Soviet values of rigid homogeny, science, and obedience. Rooming-in also served to encourage women, whose share of the workforce had spiked after the war, to re-enter the home. The suggestion was that by nurturing affection and intimacy between mothers and infants, “over-educated” women might be “trained” back into the home by encouraging “natural” maternal instincts.[13] Hospitals’ maternity arrangement became the instantiating symbol for a new model of family and worked to inculcate a spatial model of domesticity with social as well as political implications.

In the latter half of the 20th-century midwife and feminist activists began calling for the de-medicalization of birth. Home birth began to re-gain popularity among middle- and upper-class women. As hospital birth has continued to adopt the aesthetics and language of home, and alternative and home-birth advocates (spurred on by midwife movements across the world) have gained an increasing voice, the association between domesticity and birth has only grown. Hospitals have continued to make changes bridging the gaps between domestic and hospital space. Fannin describes the hospital as a hybrid space that works to “spatially mediate conflicts over the very meaning of reproduction through mobilization of the signs of the domestic.”[14] Fannin notes that the space between domestic and institutional spaces is fraught because both functions to limit women’s political agency. As Helena Mitchie puts it: “one cannot escape the discipline of the body by invoking the site of that discipline.”[15] Mitchie casts doubt on the notion that home birth provides an escape from the regimes of control incipient in the medical setting. She notes that generally, three types of women have home-births: upper-middle-class women who choose home-birth as a feminist rejoinder to medicalization, conservative women who value traditionalist privacy and patriarchal supervision, and poor women who have had little prenatal care.[16] This typology suggests that criticizing the hospital’s medicalization of birth by figuring home birth as more natural ignores the ways that home births are themselves figured by power and privilege. The hospital and home have become mutually constitutive in the discourses of domesticity and motherhood. Both are sites of control, and both are figured alternatively as sites of danger, safety, naturalness, and simulation.

Fannin points out that changes in models of motherhood at the institutional level have also shifted with the emergence of mothers as consumers. The privatization of medicine and the emergence of “patient-focused” design has seen hospitals reacting against the perception that hospitals are cold and dehumanizing. Such an approach encourages greater emphasis on hiding medical and supply equipment, a “concierge” model of service wherein patients’ needs are anticipated and met consistently, and the scripting of communication to achieve managerial standardization.[17] Increasingly, hospitals have been implementing management techniques and service models from the hospitality sector in an attempt to improve the patient experience. However, as Bromley cautions, such a “routinization of relationships” may lead to care becoming thought of as a “concrete produce delivered, as if to-order, by an individual whose special expertise is exemplary service.”[18]

Spatially, the patient-centric model works to separate staff and equipment (often by “camouflaging it”) from patients. The “camouflaging” of medical technology into a domestic therapeutic environment—for instance, sliding upholstered headboards that conceal oxygen outlets and emergency equipment, or nightstands that house blood-pressure and fetal monitors—is consistent with this trend of suppressing the reality of the hospital setting.[19] New hospitals are frequently designed explicitly to avoid appearing like a hospital, and instead try to evoke libraries, museums or even trendy bars.[20] This mitigates the anxiety related to hospitals being perceived as sites of danger and death, but such design also disconnects patients with the realities of care. By working strenuously to hide patients from the material medical facts of care, hospitals perpetuate the therapeutic experience’s status as fearful and unfamiliar.

The patient-centric model often includes the allocation of extra space for service corridors and elevators to isolate patient and support traffic. This design means patients do not interact casually with doctors and staff as frequently, widening the gap between patient and care provider.[21] The distance between patient and provider and the mechanization of interactions as a part of a service model of care can work to secure a patient’s “acquiescence to instrumentality,” in which they cede control to the medical system.[22]

Not all patient-centric advances are bad. In fact, many can significantly improve relationships between patients and carers, such as an emphasis on eye contact at the beginning of interactions. Domestic spatial imagination can also resist institutional pressure. As Jean Gilmour argues in her research on nursing practices, that nurses can use the structure of the home to couch the harsh institutional dimensions of the hospital: “Nurses become social agents responsible for generating an environment that feels like a home within the hospital, with all the physical and social freedom that this implies, as well as intimate, extended and personal relationships.” Such a tactic reflects the reality that notions of “home” hold extensive cultural purchase as signifiers of ease, belonging, and kinship, all of which may be both appropriated by institutions for ideological ends, but also used by nurses to form affective bonds and resist the standardization or commodification of patient care.

However, patient-focused design also has the potential to constitute a “commercialization” of the domestic model of care, one in which indirection and standardization make the ideological foundations and material realities of medical care more difficult to discern.

 Bodies and the Geopolitics of Birth

            Bodily space can be considered a subset of the domestic and the private. Both are linked to the home, familial intimacy, and the satisfaction of bodily needs. Hospitals re-configure bodily experience in ways that distribute institutional and patriarchal power. Rob Imrie has studied the ways popular imaginations of the home prove challenging to materialize for people with disabilities, particularly with regards to independence and privacy. Imrie discusses the ways the spaces of home are embodied by division into the component parts of the body and physiological needs: eating, sleeping, hygiene. When disabled people find that such spaces do not match their abilities and bodily configurations, they experience them as “disembodied spaces.”[23] We might re-orient Imries’ articulation of relationships between embodiment, ability, and domesticity to think about how hospitals figure the bodies of pregnant women. Maternity wards are designed with conflicting ends in mind. Some design features serve to meet the material needs of a woman in labor, and successfully enable health-promoting clinical practice and the avoidance of pain. On the other hand, hospitals also work to pathologize—to disable—women by marking pregnancy as a medical emergency. Under this pretext, women are dissembled as medical objects and re-articulated within the context of the home through the domestic discourses of maternity care. Domesticity is seen as a means of re-asserting “nature” and belonging in the face of the perceived medical “fact” that her stay in the hospital is a priori necessary. These two contrasting and not mutually exclusive situations demonstrate how domesticity is not just differently allocated to subjects along lines of social intelligibility but can be the means by which patients are disciplined and embodied as subjects of power.

The mother’s body is the site that is alternately legitimated, interpreted, and afforded and denied privacy in different ways at different spaces and times of maternity. For instance, the experience and expression of pain have spatial dimensions. Rosengren and DeVault observe an “ecology of pain” wherein pain is accepted in delivery rooms where doctors and nurses have advanced analgesic means for dealing with it, whereas in rooms further from the delivery room (patient meeting rooms, waiting rooms) nurses must deal with pain affectively.[24] More recently, Watson et al. have traced the ways pain is experienced variably in the different spaces of maternity, as well as the fact that pain legitimates the occupation of certain spaces (only mothers in certain conditions can credibly seek certain treatment places and pain management methods). They argue that “flexible” therapeutic landscapes recognize the relationality of this experience and empower patients to make informed decisions about their care.[25]

A focus on the scale of the body raises questions about women’s agency as subjects of power both in hospitals and at home. As McKinnon notes, tracking the polarized dichotomies of birth discourse “leaves little room to maneuver.” (289). She suggests that rather focus so heavily on natural vs. artificial and domestic vs. institutional, we instead pay attention to the “intimate geopolitics of birth” that occur on multiple levels constituting a “litany of overlapping territorial claims… these claims can be made by coalitions of actants who are human (mother, baby, obstetrician, midwife), non-human (wheelchair, clock, scalpel) and sub-human (hormones).”[26] This method draws from feminist and critical geographies and recognizes the maternity ward as the site of competing, overlapping interests at play across all scales. Such a theory allows critics to acknowledge that patient-centric design offers real advancements but also insidious possibilities for recapitulating problematic domestic ideology. “Geographies of birth” might also more readily explain the fact that female nurses in Toronto during the 50s and 60s provided mothers with a much greater number of cesarean section than male physicians did because it was a reliable mode of birth control that afforded some women new reproductive agency.[27] Geographies of birth recognize the body as a site of more dynamic contestation and imagination than the simple opposition between home and hospital, spaces that are not, in fact, separate but functionally bound up with each other.


[1] Marks and Beatty, The Story of Medicine in America, chap. 5.

[2] Vogel, “The Transformation of the American Hospital,” 45–46.

[3] Wertz and Wertz, Lying-In, 1.

[4] Sullivan and Weitz, Labor Pains, 4.

[5] Sullivan and Weitz, 3–9.

[6] Sullivan and Weitz, 17.

[7] Oshinsky, Bellevue, 135–40.

[8] Sullivan and Weitz, Labor Pains, 18–19.

[9] Rybczynski, “Domesticity,” 155.

[10] Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic. This surveillance is integral to the epistemological transformation that accompanies the rise of modern medicine. Foucault argues that the “medicalizing gaze” works by claiming to read the interior of the body from its surface through the diagnostic method. He argues that this opens new avenues of discursive power that constitute bodies through such medical surveillance.

[11] Temkin, “Rooming-In: Redesigning Hospitals and Motherhood in Cold War America.”

[12] This shift was also sponsored by the increasing practice of bottle-feeding (Temkin 273).

[13] Temkin, “Rooming-In: Redesigning Hospitals and Motherhood in Cold War America,” 293.

[14] Fannin, “Domesticating Birth in the Hospital: ‘Family-Centered’ Birth and the Emergence of ‘Homelike’ Birthing Rooms,” 518.

[15] Michie, “Confinements: The Domestic in the Discourses of Upper-Middle-Class Pregnancy,” 261.

[16] Michie, 263.

[17] Bromley, “Building Patient-Centeredness: Hospital Design as an Interpretive Act,” 1060–62.

[18] Bromley, 1064.

[19] Fannin, “Domesticating Birth in the Hospital: ‘Family-Centered’ Birth and the Emergence of ‘Homelike’ Birthing Rooms,” 517.

[20] Bromley, “Building Patient-Centeredness: Hospital Design as an Interpretive Act,” 1062.

[21] Bromley, 1064.

[22] Bromley, 1064.

[23] Imrie, “Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of Home,” 157.

[24] Rosengren and DeVault, “The Sociology of Time and Space in an Obstetrical Hospital,” 284–86.

[25] Watson et al., “Flexible Therapeutic Landscapes of Labour and the Place of Pain Relief,” 872–74.

[26] McKinnon, “The Geopolitics of Birth,” 290.

[27] Feldberg, “On the Cutting Edge: Science and Obstetrical Practice in a Women’s Hospital, 1945-1960,” 130–35.


Bromley, Elizabeth. “Building Patient-Centeredness: Hospital Design as an Interpretive Act.” Social Science & Medicine 75 (2012): 1057–66.

Fannin, Maria. “Domesticating Birth in the Hospital: ‘Family-Centered’ Birth and the Emergence of ‘Homelike’ Birthing Rooms.” Antipode 35, no. 3 (2003): 513–35.

Feldberg, Georgina. “On the Cutting Edge: Science and Obstetrical Practice in a Women’s Hospital, 1945-1960.” In Women, Health, and Nation: Canada and the United States since 1945, edited by Georgina Feldberg, Molly Ladd-Taylor, Alison Li, and Kathryn McPherson, 123–43. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003.

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Imrie, Rob. “Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of Home.” In The People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking, 156–61. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

Marks, Geoffrey, and William K. Beatty. The Story of Medicine in America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.

McKinnon, Katharine. “The Geopolitics of Birth.” Area 48, no. 3 (2016): 285–91.

Michie, Helena. “Confinements: The Domestic in the Discourses of Upper-Middle-Class Pregnancy.” In Making Worlds: Gender, Metaphor, Materiality, edited by Susan Hardy Aiken, 258–73. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.

Oshinsky, David. Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at Americas Most Storied Hospital. New York: Anchor, 2016.

Rosengren, William R., and Spencer DeVault. “The Sociology of Time and Space in an Obstetrical Hospital.” In The Hospital in Modern Society, edited by Eliot Freidson, 266–92. New York: Free Press, 1963.

Rybczynski, Witold. “Domesticity.” In The People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking, 151–55. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

Sullivan, Deborah A., and Rose Weitz. Labor Pains: Modern Midwives and Home Birth. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Temkin, Elizabeth. “Rooming-In: Redesigning Hospitals and Motherhood in Cold War America.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 76, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 271–98.

Vogel, Morris J. “The Transformation of the American Hospital.” In Institutions of Confinement: Hospitals, Asylums, and Prisons in Western Europe and North America, 1500-1950, edited by Norbert Finzsch and Robert Jütte, 39–54. Publications of the German Historical Institute. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Watson, D. Burges, M. J. Murtagh, Joanne E. Lally, R. G. Thomson, and Sheila McPhail. “Flexible Therapeutic Landscapes of Labour and the Place of Pain Relief.” Health & Place 13, no. 4 (2007): 865–876.

Wertz, Richard W., and Dorothy C. Wertz. Lying-in: A History of Childbirth in America. Expanded ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.



Privatization and Securitization Threatens the Future of the Public Square by Gabe Fedor

It’s one of those first truly warm days of Spring in the year 2038, where even when you stand in the shade the air still has a warmth to it that wraps around you. Like all self-respecting urbanites in New York City on the first nice day of the year, we decide to go for a walk to a public square. We choose a new square that had just been built on the site of a recently demolished newspaper office building, because who reads those anymore? When we arrive to the square, we are immediately struck by the eight-foot concrete and plaster wall that surrounds it on all sides. We have to access the square through one of four gated entrances. A sign hanging on the entrance reads: “Square Hours: 7AM – 6PM. Strictly Prohibited: Sleeping, Drug Use, Skateboarding, Loitering, Tents or Informal Structures, Protesting, Shouting.” The sign strikes us as oddly detailed and the hours seem strangely restrictive, but we enter anyways because we want to enjoy the warm weather. Once inside the walled square, we see a few people with ties and pantsuits, scattered around on benches eating their lunches or looking at their phones. We were hoping to layout on the grass in the sun to read or maybe doze, but we don’t see any grass or a long bench that isn’t intersected by those armrests that are meant to deter the homeless from sleeping on them. There are a few trees and flowerbeds, but the square is mostly comprised of large stone pavers, metal benches, concrete walls, and a huge, contemporary art sculpture in the middle. We grab a bench close to one of the large trees in the square and begin to read. I look up occasionally to people watch or peer at the sculpture, but once the lunch hour is over, the square almost completely empties out, and the sculpture was more intimidating than interesting to look at. After peering around for a while, two security guards positioned at either end of the square catch my periphery vision, then I begin to notice how each of the lampposts throughout the park are also fitted with micro security cameras. Their presence actually makes me feel less secure – why is all this security necessary? Am I in a bad part of town? We begin to feel uneasy with all the eyes on us. The square stops being enjoyable because we can’t relax since there’s no one there to relax with and we are constantly being monitored. We decide to head to another neighborhood in search of a better, more lively and green public square.

The foundation of the urban public square is being shaken to its core. Two elements are causing this upset and must constantly be grappled with and contested in the public square of the future: privatization and security. At the heart of this transformation of the public square of the future is the sweeping, international urban trend of neoliberal policy, which has a dramatic effect on public squares, namely that when corporate and private interests craft our public spaces, they are inherently not public, but are privately owned representations of what planners and corporations believe the public should want (Kingwell 215 and Hou). In his discussion of public space, Kurt Iveson investigates how people’s accessibility to public areas shifts depending who constructs it: “The ceremonial model of public space makes an important contribution by considering the issue of state provision of public space, and its impact on how people occupy public spaces. It is argued that the state should be more open to claims for access to public space than private owners, whose concerns are more market driven” (Iveson 187-188). When an enterprise decides to build a public square across from their office tower, their concern is boosting their own image, not the provision of a useful, pleasant public square accessible to all. Indeed, the issue of security in public square morphs with privatization, as public space that is privately owned is increasingly “made bleak by intrusive surveillance technology” and private security guards (Kingwell 212). In New York City, this has given rise to privately owned public space (POPS) that tend to conform to the de-localized, security obsessed, and sleek style of corporate office culture while making the space uncomfortable or downright uninviting for those outside of the dominant corporate culture: “private plazas are more sleek than sylvan. ‘There’s not a blade of grass.’ Over the years, private parks and plazas — some with dramatic waterfalls — have won mixed reviews” (Foderaro). These mixed reviews are due to the public squares being designed for corporate aesthetics rather than the livability of the people, where fancy granite pavers and towering fountains take precedence over a simple bench or grassy lawn. It will be argued that the key to preventing the privatized and security-camera monitored public square of the future is insurgent urbanism, through which the agency of individuals and communities transform urban spaces to fit local needs (Hou).

In the neoliberal age, it is now more important than ever to ask the short but complex question: what is public? Primarily, public brings to mind the difference between the space inside a home compared with the populated and public space outside of the home. Another popular use of public is to refer to the state, as a separate and distinct entity from the private market. In his chapter titled “Putting the Public Back into Public Space,” Iveson contends that these varied meanings of public contribute to a collective hesitation towards defining the nature of public spaces in societies throughout the world. To create a more concrete representation of public space, Iveson defines four models of it: ceremonial, community, liberal, and multi-public. The ceremonial model defines authentic public space as, “the triumph of the public over the market, usually through state ownership and large-scale civic design” (Iveson 187). The Zocalo in Mexico City, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Moscow’s Red Square are all examples of ceremonial public space because they signify the power of the state through their size, architecture, and the celebration of the nation, state, or city’s historically significant events. Further, because they are built entirely by the nation, state, or city, they communicate the victory of public good and civility over private market desires (Iveson 187). The inverse of celebrations in ceremonial public space is protests, which are staged with equal frequency. Instead of celebrating the public nature of the state, protests are staged when people become excluded from the public or the government ceases to represent the public’s interest. Zuccotti Park and Times Square in New York City are both antonyms of ceremonial public space, and thus under this model, would not be considered truly public space at all. This is because Zuccotti Park is privately owned by Brookfield Properties and Times Square is imbibed with private corporate messaging that all but makes one forget they are standing on city property (Katz and Townsend).

The community model of public space is concentrated on the theory of ‘new urbanism,” which argues that well-designed public urban features have the ability to bring the diverse urban population together and foster community (Iveson 188). In the community model, for a public space like a city square to actually be public, it need not be owned by the state like in the ceremonial model, but only has to serve the needs of the local community and act as a cohesive anchor, bringing residents together through spontaneous interactions. In tandem with the community model, the liberal model of public space is also concerned with how the space is used in urbanite’s lives rather than who owns the space for it to be public. In the liberal model, it’s a matter of accessibility that makes a given space public or not. For a city square to truly be public under the liberal model, it must be open and accessible to all regardless of status and social difference (Iveson 189). Under the liberal model of public space, Zuccotti Park would be considered public because it is open for use by anyone, 24-hours-a-day, not just employees from the neighboring skyscrapers (Levitin). However, there are aspects of Zuccotti that could come into conflict with this model centered around accessibility, namely that it is located in the extremely wealthy financial district, severing accessibility for people living in boroughs further out, and no sleeping is allowed, denying access for the homeless (Levitin and Katz). As the Occupy Wall Street protestors demonstrated in 2011, the square is not accessible for protestors who decide to campout after Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the square to be cleared for “deteriorating health and safety concerns” (Katz). This lack of accessibility for certain groups in Zuccotti raises concerns over the future of public squares, especially with the increasing use of neoliberal policy to lessen the financial burden on cities that subsequently gives rise to more privately owned public space across the urban fabric (Bressi 42).

The last model of public space that Iveson discusses is multi-public, which criticizes the lumping of all people into one public and instead brings attention to ‘counter-publics’ that have unique interests that are marginalized and not represented by the dominant public (Iveson 189). The multi-public model demonstrates the need for alternative spaces where the minority interests of the counter-publics can be expressed in the city’s physical environment. The model shows that in order for a public space to actually be public, it must celebrate difference rather than ignore it or attempt to conform the different publics into a lumped majority by using the space. Inequalities exist in public space primarily because there is a lack of acceptance and recognition of different cultures, so to combat this, the multi-public model calls for each of the marginalized and counter-publics to be formally represented in the space (Iveson 190). Homelessness presents the most vivid example of cultural difference, where the interests of the homeless are rarely included in public space, but are usually actively deterred from participating in the public sphere. Zuccotti Park is definitely not public under this model due to its location and exclusion of certain groups through Zuccotti’s rules preventing people from sleeping within the square.

From the four models of public space presented by Iveson, it’s possible to combine the models in order to better grasp how neoliberal policy that encourages privatization and securitization is threatening the different iterations of public space and squares. A truly public space has to place the needs of the public above private interests, must help to foster community through its design, has to be accessible by every social class, and must represent and celebrate in its design the differences of both publics, the dominant and the marginalized (Iveson 187-190). Privatization encouraged by neoliberal policy along with gentrification threatens many of these factors that make a space actually public. As the population, and thus the need for public squares increased throughout New York City, the city found it economically infeasible to support all of that infrastructure, so they began providing private developers with incentives to build public space (Bressi 43). The incentive that has led to the development of 503 privately owned public spaces throughout the city was allowing developers to surpass the skyscraper zoning laws if they agreed to provide a certain amount of public space for every floor of the skyscraper that went above the height limit (Bressi 43). This gave New Yorkers their much need public space, but it was privately owned, which as Mark Kingwell points out in his chapter titled “The Prison of Public Space,” can have serious consequences.

Like what happened in New York City with the need for more public space, when a public amenity becomes threatened by overuse or requires expansion, “The typical response to this threat are regulation and privatization. Neither is without cost. Privatization of some goods – air, for example, – is economically untenable as well as offensive to the common need (although privately supplied water, sold in bottles for profit, is now widely accepted: a red flag) (Kingwell 213). The example of bottled water applies remarkably well for public squares: where they were once solely constructed by the state as visible signs of public government putting the civic good over private interest, public squares are now primarily built by private developers in New York City (Rosenberg). This mirrors how water was solely a public amenity, but has since been bottled by private companies (many of which lie about filtration) and sold for profit. Kingwell argues that just as water is a basic human right and is available through the public water supply, public space allows citizens the right “to gather and discuss, to interact with and debate one’s fellow citizens” (Kingwell 213). More than simply being a public square, it actually encourages the great urban intermixing of classes and races that gives rise to discussions and arguments, the very cornerstone of democracy. Kingwell thus proves that since public space allows citizens to exercise democratic rights like the right to assemble and freedom of speech, its privatization risks limiting that right to those who are able to access the privately owned public square. Shockingly, after an audit of all of New York City’s privately owned public spaces in 2017, it was discovered that 180 of them did not comply with the city’s rules. Private corporations negated everything from benches to water fountains; with some private enterprises going as far as putting signs above public spaces that wrongly informed people that they were “for members only” or were “private property” (Rosenberg). New York City’s privately owned public spaces are not meeting Iveson’s models for being truly public and they have the potential to strip people of democratic rights as Kingwell has discovered. The answer to solving these issues caused by the privatization and securitization of public squares is the creation of insurgent public space.

Insurgent public space is created through insurgent urbanism, which is when citizens and communities create space outside of regulatory and government legal stipulations. People reclaim, occupy, or appropriate certain spaces in cities to create the change they want to see, express opinions on space, garner support for change, or just to engage in community activities (Hou). At the most basic level, a block party is an example of insurgent public space. A road usually used for car traffic must be blocked, either illegally or legally, in order for the space to be transformed for a party setting. At it’s highest caliber, insurgent urbanism is the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park and the Arab Spring in Tahrir Square, where the usual square regulations are ignored and the space is reconfigured and redesigned to meet the needs of protestors and revolutionaries. Insurgent urbanism can help to alleviate the effects of those 180 mismanaged privately owned public spaces throughout New York City – if the corporation responsible for the square does not provide benches, then insurgent urbanism says to build a bench and put it there regardless if it is permitted or not. If the privately owned public square must have an outdoor water fountain but does not provide one, insurgent urbanists should start a protest outside the owner’s office tower until the water is supplied. The point behind insurgent public space is that when the needs of the people who use the space are not being met, they should have the right to transform it until it meets the local community’s needs or to protest until change is initiated: “Lived experience should be more important than the physical form in defining the city” (Hou). One such instance of insurgent urbanism that attempted to construct the city according to lived experience instead of through the vision of private developers occurred in Tomkins Square Park on New York City’s Lower East Side, in 1988. Riots were organized for an entire night to fight a 1AM curfew that had been imposed on the community’s park in order to deter use by drug dealers and the homeless. The curfew was seen as an attempt to clean up the square in order to make the neighborhood more appealing to private developers and the new residents that were moving into the Lower East Side, rapidly gentrifying the formerly working class area (Smith 314). “‘Whose fucking park? It’s our fucking park’ became the recurrent slogan” (Smith 315). Residents sought to protect the park and their neighborhood as a whole from private interests through insurgent urbanism. The riots against the curfew and evictions of homeless people from Tompkins Square Park lasted through the night, creating a temporary insurgent public space within the larger park. When the privatization of public space gives rise to spaces that aren’t providing for the needs of local residents, or aren’t accessible or representative of every member of the public, it will be through public demonstrations and insurgent urbanism like the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park and the riot in Tompkins Square Park that makes the space truly public once again.

If the widespread neoliberalization of American cities continues, there may no longer be public squares in the U.S. by the year 2038. Instead, the privately owned public squares that are currently saturating New York City’s public spaces will be all that’s left. POPS do not meet the models of truly public space outlined by Iveson because they are not always accessible to all classes, do not put the public good above private interest, and do not help to build community. Further, due to the urban public square’s ability to foster democratic rights as basic as gathering in groups and discussing issues, when they become privatized, those rights become threatened by private interests. As Kingwell proves, this is a slippery slope that can lead to not only a select few being able to access the public squares, but a select few being able to actively participate in the democratic process. In order to avoid this bleak future of security camera-ridden squares designed to match corporate aesthetics, the people must reclaim spaces through insurgent urbanism. When the community is able to shape the space as opposed to private developers dictating how it should look and be used, the community is not only united through its creation, but is gradually able to bridge class divides and cultural differences through daily interactions within the truly public square.



Bressi , Todd W. “The New York City Privately Owned Public Space Project New York,             New York.” Places Journal, pp. 42–54.


Foderaro, Lisa W. “Zuccotti Park Is Privately Owned, but Open to the Public.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Oct. 2011.


Hou, Jeffrey. “Beyond Zuccotti Park: Making the Public.” Places Journal, 1 Sept. 2012.


Iveson, Kurt. “Putting the Public Back into Public Space.” The People, Place, and Space   Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking et al., Routledge, 2014, pp. 187–191.


Katz, Andrew. “Occupy Wall Street: How Protesters Made the Zuccotti Park Eviction    Inevitable.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Nov. 2011.


Kingwell, Mark. “The Prison of ‘Public Space.’” The People, Place, and Space Reader,     edited by Jen Jack Gieseking et al., Routledge, 2014, pp. 212-216.


Levitin, Michael. “The Triumph of Occupy Wall Street.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media      Company, 10 June 2015.


Rosenberg, Eli. “A ‘Members Only’ Public Space in Manhattan? Join the Club.” The New             York Times, The New York Times, 19 Apr. 2017.


Smith, Neil. “Class Struggle on Avenue B: The Lower East Side as Wild Wild West” The   People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking et al., Routledge,             2014, pp. 314-320


Townsend, Anthony. “ Digitally Mediated Urban Space: New Lessons for            Design.” Praxis, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2004.




Will The Next Social Movement Start at Shake Shack? An Analysis of the Accessibility of America’s Eating Places

In 2000, New York City started to reclaim public space in Madison Square park in Manhattan because it was in a state of despair. Danny Meyer, Trinity College graduate and restaurateur, decided to help redevelop the park through the creation of the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Randy Garutti, Meyer’s Director of operations established a hot dog cart that was run through one of Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) operations. The hot dog cart was a great success as fans lined up daily for 3 years. One day, Danny Meyer decided to sit down and scribble on the back of a napkin the design for the hotdog stand, which was redeveloped into what we now know as Shake Shack. His design was a counterfeit from the American diner, even though they sold similar food. Meyer’s design was “not retro, not ‘50s music playing” but a place with “good people serving fresh food.” In 2004, the city started to take bids on the operation of Meyer’s design and in July 2004, Shake Shack established its first official kiosk.

Shake Shack was not actually meant to be a chain restaurant, according to Randy Garutti it was “designed for one purpose; to be a park of a Park and a community in New York,” Shake Shack already had one intended audience. Not only did Shake Shack have an intended audience, it grew up alongside the emergence of social media. It has benefited from ongoing advertising through their fans sharing real-time experiences with friends and family on social media platforms. This has also helped Shake Shack establish a renowned presence in the communities in the restaurants are built in. Meyer wanted to keep the trend of having a unique experience for customers going to a Shake Shack, so, according to Garutti, Shake Shack is designed specifically to each of its location. It creates signature milkshakes, and beverages based on the city in which it operates. This “fine casual” restaurant does, however, have a similar thread of the experience for its customers. The common thread that follows the  Shake Shack experience are hospitality, a standard menu of classic American food including their famous premium, sustainable ingredients like all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef, and buzzers that will notify a customer when their food is ready.

Shake Shack has now grown to be the largest part of Meyer’s USHG portfolio. The company understands how to use social media and their digital presence. When explaining how they are capitalizing on their outsized brand awareness, they “believe that [their] press and media impressions and industry recognition are a testament to the strength of [the] brand.” In June 2014, Shake Shack ranked #10 on Restaurant Social Media Index’s top 250 restaurant brands. Through advertising and promoting their brand to the people of Manhattan, Shake Shack was able to have twice as much store revenue than McDonalds. But what not a lot of people understand is that this space was produced and controlled. For locals, unlike other American diners in the area,  it was branded as the best new restaurant 1.) be because it was opened in an accessible location, Madison Square Park and 2.) because it was advertised as a healthier burger.

Eating places and commercial establishments like Shake Shack reveal that private sites in American culture are diminishing because of their popularity. Although there is a movement popularizing dining in, beneath the surface of commercial eating places are trends of exclusionary acts. These chain restaurants, and the buildings that they are attached to, are not simply buildings but socially constructed sites. In the words of psychologist Kurt Lewin, “food habits do not occur in empty space.” Though policy has changed and made it illegal to refuse service to a person based on their race, the spatial decisions made concerning eating places have direct racial and class consequences. As eating places become more publicized, the administrative offices in the commercial establishments become city builders, making decisions on the cities spatial dynamics and zone regulators, determining which crowd has access to their restaurant. Hence, there is a causal relationship between the spatial distance of the chain restaurant and the social meaning of the establishment. Directly following these geographic decisions are public and private consequences. I will examine the commercialization of eating places by looking at the architectural design, intended consumer, and delivery/service of Shake Shack along with analyzing their social consequences.

Looking Back at the History of Eating Places

Eating places can be defined as a place where a person consumes food. This includes bistros, cafes, diners, restaurants, lunchrooms and dining rooms. These spaces are often not just places for food consumption for certain groups of people, which tends to complicate their uses. The eating situation plays an important part in life because it creates a “feeling of group belongingness” when people eat together. Outside of food consumption, they are considered places for ideas, fellowship and business. The history of eating places tends to be extremely complicated as it has drastically changed in the past couple of centuries. There has been a major shift from eating places being located in the private sphere to the public sphere. With eating places moving to the public realm, commercial establishments of chain restaurants started to form as well. So, on top of the move to the public sphere, commercial establishments began to make a profit on something natural, people’s cravings and hunger.

Though eating places are looked at as a “public good” because many social movements have started there, they actually fall into the gray area of the black and white public vs. private space. They can be both a public and a private space; it’s all about perspective because space has no “intrinsic status as public or private.” Public spaces are considered to be a place where  people have “the right to gather and discuss, to interact with and debate one’s fellow citizens.” Eating places, with that definition in mind,  have a long history of being private spaces. In fact, take-out, to eat at home, as an abstract idea was widely accepted before dining-in at a restaurant was. Takeout dates back to Ancient Greece, and Rome where people had their food prepared at a thermopolium to have their food taken away to be eaten in the consolidated, private space of a home. Even during the Colonial Era, eating places were exclusively private. Typically the only place people would eat is their own home, in fact, they only dined away for special occasions such as church gatherings, weddings, and funerals. In today’s society, people who only dine out for special occasions are ones who are trying to save money and can’t afford it. So, eating places are a difficult to categorize because, on the one hand, they could be considered a public space because of the vast amounts of consumers, and their location being in “public spaces.” However, on the other hand, eating places outside of one’s home is only for those who can afford it making it “merely an open marketplace of potential transactions, monetary or otherwise, between isolated individuals.”

Eating places typically have an exclusionary atmosphere, in fact, it’s rooted in their history. In the Colonial Era, dining out at an eating place other than one’s home was considered to be exclusive to the wealthy. If we look at the start of the Civil Rights movement in the Post War Era in the United States, we see eating places still were exclusive. The Civil Rights movement started in a whites-only diner located in North Carolina. Four students who attended an all-black technical school protested, and declared they be able to order lunch. Though they were refused, they started the Sit-In Movement during the 1960s. In today’s society, there has been an establishment of a hierarchy of chain restaurants by their affordability, reinforcing the exclusivity of eating places. Whether it’s McDonalds targeting the working class and excluding the lower class, or the dining room within the private realm of one’s home, excluding the homeless. Eating places include consumers (both financial and ecological) and exclude loiterers.

Since Shake Shack falls into this gray area of a public and private space as an eating place we could consider it to be a multi-public model of public space, which is a model that acknowledges there is social difference and exclusion. It was publicized through the commercialization and popularization of dining in through social media. For example, even if a person is simply ordering a meal to-go and may think they’re in the private space of a chain restaurant, because of Shake Shack’s social media presence and its use in their advertising, that person will end up on another customers SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Though this may seem like a natural process or normal instance, eating places are a social construct, not something natural, but a produced space. So, it is in Shake Shack’s intention to publicize their private space. On another note, even though the restaurant seems like a public space for public use, as mentioned before, it’s only a public space for consumers. Therefore, the likelihood of a social movement starting at an eating place is extremely low. because businesses are enforcing more private laws, for example, now a person cannot sit down for a meeting with someone at a starbucks because it is considered loitering.

Shake Shack

Architectural Design

Shake Shack’s design started on the back of a napkin and has since extended to what the locations look like today. One interesting point to analyze is the logo and font. Shake Shack’s logo encompasses its signature menu item, the ShackBurger, and the font has a simple and sleek look. Shake Shack’s logo colors are white, black, and lime green; the simplicity of it allows for a modern sensation to surface opposed to places such as historical diners. Its aesthetic is unique to Shake Shack, no other fast food or fine casual restaurant has been able to recreate and generate the same amount of popularity.

The inside look of a Shake Shack also intentionally has a clean and sleek look. Though each individual Shake Shack is constructed differently, one theme that remains architecturally is wrap-around steel beams, open kitchens, and the tables which are made from reclaimed bowling lanes. It’s owners wanted to “embody” the experience a person would get at the Madison Square Park Shake Shack, especially including “the line and the kiosk style” (so yes, even the line is socially constructed at Shake Shack’s). As an eating place it has become a less private space because of the popularity. As mentioned before, on the inside people are constantly advertising Shake Shack and crowded because the space doesn’t fit the vast amount of people that want their service.

Intended consumer

Going back to the history, during the 17th and 18th century, most Colonial Americans did not have a reason to dine in at commercial establishments. This was mainly because dining at taverns, inns, and boarding houses were seen as a “luxury for the wealthy.” The same happens today with eating places. For example, one difference between McDonalds and Shake Shack is their targeted audience. The two have the same American Menu, however, their quality of production, location, and price show us that they’re looking to sell to the upper and middle class, rather than the lower and working class.

It is not unknown that Shake Shack is significantly more expensive than other fast food restaurants. This is for two main reasons, one being that a person is paying for the quality of the food, and the other being that Shake Shack is actually not considered fast food but fine casual food. Shake Shack’s burger is more expensive to create, it’s considered a “premium burger” because it comes directly from raw material supplied by regional slaughterhouses and grinders. Shake Shack also charges separately for each item, there is not a deal on combos. The average price for a ShackBurger is $5.29, $2.99 for fries and $2.30 for a regular sized fountain drink. On top of having extensive pricing, Shake Shack has about 31 domestic locations that are only located in remote areas. Some of Shake Shacks locations include the upper east side of Manhattan, Yale, and downtown Los Angeles. Pricing and location choices like these allude to the fact that Shake Shack’s audience is limited to middle and upper class.


Along with having a similar interior design, the service or delivery of the food at Shake Shack remains consistent through the kiosk style dining. When you order food from Shake Shack you have the option to either order to-go or dine in, and you have the option to dodge the line by downloading the Shake Shack app. Once you have finished placing your order, you are given a buzzer that will notify you when you can pick up your food. The to-go process versus dine-in is not much different, the wait time is about the same. The biggest difference is carrier or tray a person is given to eat their food. Most people do not mind the wait because it gives them time to look over the new or limited edition menu items. There is a sense of speediness, however,  there is not drive through. This is partially because Meyer wanted to recreate the experience of the Madison Square Park Shake Shack of the line, and have a fine casual restaurant space.

So will the next social movement start at a Shake Shack? Probably not. Shake Shacks intended audience is not one who has been racially or socially oppressed (though there would be a good chance of a revolution if Starbucks became illegal). Shake Shack knows their target audience, they know the people who are already included and excluded. Most of their locations are in a remote area and have a rather closed off or inaccessible location for such an event. If there were to be a social movement at a Shake Shack, the first location would be the most likely because it was in a park. However, Madison Square Park has a  public-private partnership and is partially owned by major companies for part of the year. This same partnership is what allowed it to be restored from its time of despair in the early 2000s. Though we may think there is the potential to have a social movement start in a chain restaurant or a commercial establishment, because of the promotion through social media, geofilters, locations, etc. These businesses actually have strict policies concerning times the park location is considered a public space or a private space. These types of restrictions make it close to impossible to start such a movement. Sites like Shake Shack are socially constructed for consumers, not for people protesting. Unfortunately, you’ll have better luck starting a movement in a town square like the colonials than you would at a Shake Shack.



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Life in the Colonies

Life in the Colonies

Colonial Williamsburg, the famous open-air museum nestled between the York and James Rivers in Virginia, attracts an abundance of tourists annually.  The attraction gives visitors a glimpse into colonial life through the use of actors inhabiting the colonial buildings and spaces.  A reoccurring theme throughout it is the crucial role that Virginia, and specifically Williamsburg, played in the development of American democracy through revolutionary philosophies.  This is embodied in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s mission statement, “To feed the human spirit by sharing America’s enduring story.”[1]  If this is the foundation’s and museum’s mission, it is important to explore the manner in which this is being achieved and the gaps in the story the museum tells.  By keeping in line with Edward Said’s concepts outlined in Invention, Memory and Place, this paper aims to evaluate Colonial Williamsburg’s reproduction of the history of democracy in the U.S. and how it democracy is practiced today.  More specifically, this paper discusses the manner in  which Colonial Williamsburg reproduces problematic ideas of democracy by portraying a nostalgic and wistful version of the Virginia colony and ignores the complex complications that American democracy faces today.

In Invention, Memory and Place, Edward Said explores the social constructions of memory and how it informs our national consciousness.  If one were to consider Colonial Williamsburg’s mission statement of “To feed the human spirit by sharing America’s enduring story”, the memories that come to mind are along the lines of the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence, as well as individuals such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.  This history is taught in most American curricula and is considered by Said to be a “nationalist effort premised on the need to construct a desirable loyalty to… one’s country, tradition, and faith.”[2]  If schools are the primary mechanism of socialization, then teaching this history is a way to create a collective memory, “in which past events are selected reconstructed, maintained, modified, and endowed with a political meaning.”[3]  Colonial Williamsburg’s depictions of colonial America propagate an idea of a harmonious society with little tension between genders, classes and races.

When one visits Colonial Williamsburg, he or she steps onto a late seventeenth century street that immediately transports him or her 200 years into the past.  Actors in colonial garb walk past smiling and, if one is lucky, he or she may see historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin delivering a speech about the Revolutionary War and American liberty.  In the late 1970s, the Colonial Williamsburg foundation hired several cultural and social historians to paint a more accurate picture of what life in the colonies was like, “[advocating] for the acceptance of a more… critical history that exposed the underside of Colonial Virginia, moving beyond the elite ‘silk pants’ patriots.”[4]  This goal would challenge tourists to examine our national history through an analytical and critical lens, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of how the United States was created through depicting the conflicts that existed in colonial society and how those same conflicts still exist in one way or another.

While admirable and an important task for the foundation to assume, its implementation has failed.  Perhaps one of the reasons underlying Colonial Williamsburg’s attempts to achieve the depiction of a more accurate history lies in the conflict between the business of Colonial Williamsburg and its mission to educate.  Accurate depictions by actors of slavery and the subservient role of women in colonial America would not only be unethical, but also would interfere with Colonial Williamsburg’s goal of attracting the maximum possible number of visitors needed to fund the living museum.[5]  The concepts of constructivism and mimetic realism coexist at Colonial Williamsburg, meaning that “fixed or real facts comprised of an accumulation of facts” and the interpretation of these facts and historical ideas are used “to make the past come alive.”[6]  The issue with this practice is that interpretations of history are portrayed as fact, which means that the history depicted does not necessarily depict the truth.  Because of this, the darker aspects of American colonial history, such as the mass killings of Native Americans and slavery, are often overlooked.  Colonial Williamsburg provides a type of escapism for visitors, in the same way that Disneyland does, by using a benign social history to “comfort visitors’ qualms about social injustice and banish a discussion of it all together.”[7]  While Colonial Williamsburg does, in a way, serve the purpose of indoctrination that Said describes by educating the public about American history through a revisionist lens, it is hardly a conspiracy hatched up by the foundation.  Rather, the foundation has a genuine business need to make the museum as inviting as possible for potential visitors in order to maximize its revenue.

That being said, it is important to understand what life in the colonies was like and the claim in the Declaration of Independence that America would guarantee “liberty and justice for all” was intended for white, landowning men only. Life in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Virginia was far different than what is depicted through reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg.  The first English ship arrived on the shores of Virginia on April 26, 1607 carrying 143 Englishmen.[8]  Originally, the English intended to build a military fort and commercial trading post and, unlike the Puritans who settled in Massachusetts, the men who found themselves in Virginia were interested in making fortunes for themselves.[9]  While Colonial Williamsburg markets Virginia as the birthplace of American democracy, the reality lived by the majority of Virginia’s citizens was anything but democratic.

For women and African slaves, specifically, Virginia society was oppressive in its strict hierarchical structure.  The Virginia colony began when the English shipped young men to the area to cultivate the land in the early 1600s.  The migration of the English and the establishment of the Jamestown colony nearly twenty years prior to the colonization of Massachusetts by the Puritans.[10]  This vision of the Virginia colony soon evolved into “a permanent colony of families whose labor would support a diversified agricultural economy.”[11]  In order to achieve this, Virginia needed “honest laborers” who were married with children to “keep them from the dangers of idleness.”[12]  It was assumed that relationships with honest women was what kept laborers honest, “wives capable of turning men into hardworking, permanent settlers.”[13]  In 1620, the English began to ship women to Virginia with the hopes that it would inspire men to start families and the dream of a sustainable colony would be finally realized.[14]  Even with the import of Englishwomen, the ratio of men to women in Virginia was severely skewed (it was approximately 4:1), which made the courting process extremely competitive.  Initially, the House of Burgesses passed a petition that allowed husbands to grant shares of their lands to their wives to attract more women to migrate to the colonies, but that practice appears to have been not widely practiced and to have been short-lived.[15]

In England, it was not unusual for women to assist in agricultural labor, but by the mid-seventeenth century in Virginia, women were expected to tend to indoor chores.[16]  While women without servants were more likely to assist in agricultural labor, women of a higher status tended to spend their days cooking for their families and travelers passing through.[17]  The opportunity to move to Virginia and become a wife and mother became both a marketing technique for the Virginia Company and a form of asserting one’s place in a highly stratified society, “they offered them a degree of power and status in a colony in which two other arenas for female self-assertion—markets and city streets—did not exist.”[18]  During the Revolutionary period, however, women did have the important task of assuming the role of Republican Motherhood, meaning that it was the duty of the mother to teach her sons about the importance of American patriotism.[19]

African American life in colonial Virginia was brutal and bleak.  A study examining the colonial Virginia legal code reveals a number of statutes passed that were key in the institutionalization of slavery in the colony.  The great irony of Virginia was that for all of the revolutionary thought it produced, “Virginia was also a leader in the gradual debasement of blacks”, excluding them from the formation of the democratic American narrative.[20]  In 1659 African and Caribbean immigrants were directly referred to as slaves in Act XVI,  which provided financial incentives to those participating in the slave trade.[21]  In 1669 an act entitled An Act About the Casuall Killing of Slaves legalized, for all intents and purposes, the killing of one’s slaves by allowing owners to mutilate and beat what they deemed to be their property, “This 1669 statute indicated that Virginia was prepared to exploit the slave labor force to the maximum degrees possible.”[22]  A 1691 statute provided that if one were to free a slave then he would have to pay for the slave’s transportation out of the country, which made it difficult for masters to free their slaves due to the economic burden.[23]  This statute also made it clear that Virginia found emancipated slaves in society undesirable and their only function was to provide labor for their white owners.  Most subsequent legislation further restricted the economic opportunities of non-whites in society.

Between 1750 and 1774, the importation of slaves exceeded all other imports into the colony.[24]  Ship logs taking inventory of those onboard show that a disproportionate number of children and teenagers were brought into Virginia, “… those involved in the Virginia slave trade recognized the value of adolescent Africans, ‘men-boys and ‘women-girls’.”[25]  Furthermore, along with the slaves’ responsibilities as either household servants or working the lands of a plantation, they were also expected to procreate to create a new generation of slaves for their owners.  Most female slaves were approximately eleven years old when they were sent to plantations with this expectation, “[the] region’s planters could expect them… to be contributing to the natural increase of the black population within six to seven years.”[26] In fact, data obtained from slave auctions demonstrate that some plantation owners slowed their buying habits because the slave population of their manors were reproducing themselves.[27]

The difficult experiences and expectations of women and slaves in Williamsburg, as well as Virginia and the thirteen colonies as a whole, are typically sugarcoated if not completely overlooked at Colonial Williamsburg.  Classical political philosophy posits that democracy is a system of government ruled by the demos, or the masses.  Colonial Williamsburg portrays the history of democracy as a sunny one, with all residents, women and slaves alike, somehow factoring into the creation of and participation in American democracy.  True American history could not look more different.

Furthermore, from a Said-ian outlook, Colonial Williamsburg acts as a nationalist tool to tell a specific version of American history.  It is easy for a visitor to leave Colonial Williamsburg with the impression that the democratic values formulated in the American colonies were wholesome and all-inclusive and exist without challenges and debates over its efficacy.  The reality, however, is that now, more than ever, Americans are revisiting what American democracy entails and what it means to be active in American democratic processes.

Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump at President, there has been a marked shift in American perceptions of democracy.  In Restoring Meaningful Subjects and “Democratic Hope” to Society, Susan Saegert writes that “Democratic practices and institutions are more hopes than assured realities”, meaning that they are maintained by the faith of those who participate in democratic systems by practicing what it means to participate in a political society.[28]  Democracy is significantly more complicated now than it was in 1776; the introduction of technology into politics has created dramatic polarization on both sides of the political spectrum and has facilitated the creation of a space where fabricated news stories proliferate.[29]  As a result, one of the most important tenets of a democratic society, the shared understanding of an agreed set of objective facts, has been severely undermined.  It may be worth revisiting the original democratic values our country was built on, but with the knowledge of how to expand those values to include and elevate all Americans.







Baker, Paula. “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920”. The American Historical Review, 89, no. 3 (1989).


Bremer, Francis J. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards. Lebanon: University Press of New England, 1995.


Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. (Chapel Hill: University of North Caroline Press, 2012) 76.


Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Mission Statement. 2016.


Heinemann, Ronald L. Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008


Higginbottom, Aloyisus Leon. The Matter of Color: The Colonial Period, Volume 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.


Morgan, Phillips and Michael Nicholls. “Slaves in Piedmont Virginia, 1720-1790. The William and Mary Quarterly 46, no. 2 (1989).


Saegert, Susan. “Restoring Meaningful Subjects and ‘Democratic Hope’ to Psychology” in The People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 397-402, New York: Routledge, 2014.


Said, Edward, “Invention, Memory, and Place” in The People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 361-365 New York: Routledge, 2014.


Shaffer, Marguerite S. “Selling the Past/Co-opting History: Colonial Williamsburg as a Republican Disneyland” American Quarterly 50, no. 4 (1998).


Sunstein, Cass R. “Polarization” in #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, 59-97. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.

[1] Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Mission Statement. 2016.

[2] Edward Said, “Invention, Memory, and Place” in The People, Place, and Space Reader, ed. Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 361-365 (New York: Routledge, 2014), 361.

[3] Said, 364.

[4] Marguerite S. Shaffer. “Selling the Past/Co-opting History: Colonial Williamsburg as a Republican Disneyland” American Quarterly 50, no. 4 (1998), 877.

[5] Shaffer, 877.

[6] Shaffer, 878.

[7] Shaffer, 879.

[8] Ronald L. Heinemann. Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 1.

[9] Heinemann, 1.

[10] Francis J. Bremer. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards. (Lebanon: University Press of New England, 1995), 3.

[11] Kathleen M. Brown. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. (Chapel Hill: University of North Caroline Press, 2012) 76.

[12] Brown, 80.

[13] Brown, 81.

[14] Brown, 81.

[15] Brown, 80.

[16] Brown, 85.

[17] Brown, 85.

[18] Brown, 86.

[19] Paula Baker. “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920”. The American Historical Review, 89, no. 3 (1989), 625.

[20] Aloyisus Leon Higginbottom. The Matter of Color: The Colonial Period, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978). 19

[21] Higginbottom, 34.

[22] Higginbottom, 34.

[23] Higginbottom, 40.

[24] Phillip Morgan and Michael Nicholls. “Slaves in Piedmont Virginia, 1720-1790. The William and Mary Quarterly 46, no. 2 (1989), 219.

[25] Morgan, 220.

[26] Morgan, 221.

[27] Morgan, 222.

[28] Saegert, Susan. “Restoring Meaningful Subjects and ‘Democratic Hope’ to Psychology” in The People, Place, and Space Reader, ed. Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 397-402, (New York: Routledge, 2014), 397.

[29] Cass R. Sunstein. “Polarization” in #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, 59-97. (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 59.

The Vacation Home: Progression from Ownership to Rental Agreements

The Vacation home has greatly evolved over time to exemplify one of the aspects of fulfilling the idea of the American Dream. With technology rapidly advancing, the vacation home has progressed from a place to escape from disease, climate conditions, and a medical need for rest in the mid 1700’s to more of a privilege in today’s era. Although the vacation home has proved to be a very beneficial aspect to one’s overall health and well-being, arguments surrounding overpopulation, ownership, tax regulations, and rental agreements have developed. In today’s world, people who own vacation homes are less likely to travel to them due to the influx and popularity of websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and many others. Although there are some negative aspects to these vacation home rental websites, they ultimately create a diverse way to experience a vacation and have benefitted towns that they offer rentals in. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, these websites are the future of planning vacations and specifically aid in finding a home that fits ones needs. Today, traveling has become a trend that many Americans are participating in. People want to be able to visit many different places for their desired amount of time, and not have to feel obligated to vacation at a certain place because they own a second home there. Although owning a vacation home used to be an idealized vision, people today would rather not own a vacation home and instead rent them during their vacations through websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and others. Over time, the vacation home has progressed from an ownership standpoint to an outlook more focused on renting, greatly benefitting both homeowners and those who consumers who rent the homes.

Anthony D. King, author of “A Time for Space and a Space for Time,” included in The People, Place, and Space Reader, argues that vacation homes have more recently developed in mass quantities due to four main reasons. King believes that the first explanation is a rise of industrialism in the second half of the nineteenth century and the establishment of a strong economic surplus. He also emphasizes the distinction between the space and building form of a vacation home. Throughout the chapter King explores how changes have evolved regarding the social organization of time that have relied upon industrialization and advancements in transport technology. Lastly, he blames mass production of the vacation home on the extensive social diffusion of the beliefs of an elite social class.[1]King also discusses the evolution of the weekend and how it emerged as a popular term in 1900.[2]The idea of the weekend, leisure time on Saturday and Sunday, has greatly influenced the idea of owning a second home. After people were no longer required to work seven days a week, they wanted to be able to escape to a different space. Although the vacation home has become a popularized luxury for many different reasons, people are beginning to realize that instead of owning a vacation home that comes with many implications and responsibilities, they wish to visit many different vacation homes as renters.

Homeownership has always been associated with fulfilling the American Dream; however, that is rapidly changing. In 1995, President Bill Clinton created the National Homeownership Strategy which sought to increase homeownership in the United States to an all-time high before the end of the 20thcentury. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Initiative which also sought to increase homeownership by assisting first time buyers with their homes. However, this positive attitude towards owning a home quickly changed in 2007 during the financial crises and Great Recession. Approximately eight million homes were foreclosed and $7 trillion in home equity was removed during this period.[3]Although many of these homes were full-time residences, others were not. People could not afford to live in their homes, let alone have the responsibility of having a second home. Interestingly enough, Airbnb was created in 2008, which perhaps was perfect timing to start the company as people were looking for alternatives to purchasing second homes. If people were not able to afford their vacation homes, they would have to resort to online platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and others to help plan their vacations.

“The House as Symbol of the Self,” written by Clare Cooper, analyzes aspects of the home, especially relating to architecture, that enhance the meaning of the home in its relation to its owner. Homes are unique to each and every individual and can be perhaps one of the most significant reflections of one’s personality.[4]Although this symbol of the self in a house can be intimidating to those who are renting homes via online platforms, it can also be an appealing factor when planning a vacation. Many people enjoy have their own spaces, especially when it comes to vacation homes; however, people are realizing that the economic repercussions that are associated with owning a second home are not worth it and so, they are beginning to use online platforms to rent vacation homes. Airbnb, HomeAway, and other online platforms that facilitate home sharing enable people to stay at stranger’s homes, learn about their different cultures, and experience an alternate form of space that might positively put one out of his or her comfort zone.

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most world-renowned architects, who had designed hundreds of homes during his time, is a great example of progression from owning vacation homes to finding ones to rent on the internet. Although many of Wright’s homes were or still are owned by families such as: Fallingwater, Taliesin West, Cooke House, and Smith House, among many others, many of his homes are now available for rent, some are even featured on Airbnb and HomeAway. Wright’s only house in Hawaii, a large Usonian style home in Minnesota, The Palmer House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Schwartz House in Michigan (which was featured in LIFEmagazine’s 1938 article “Eight Houses for Modern Living”) and a modern cottage in Indiana are among some of Wright’s most famous homes available for rent on the internet. Prices range from starting at $271 per night to starting at $800 per night to target a wide variety of customers.[5]These homes not only incorporate Wright’s architectural ideals, but also are idyllic destinations for those looking for a variety of places to visit during their vacations. Those who are interested in experiencing Wright’s designs now have the ability to do so. Those who are unable to afford purchasing some of his homes, are now able to visit them for their desired amount of days.

In 2017, Airbnb announced that it had four million listing worldwide in more than 191 countries, and it had over two hundred million users since its launch in 2008. This fact alone proves that people are less inclined to purchase vacation homes because they are more intrigued by idea of renting different homes and being able to frequently travel to diverse places. The United States, the leading country on Airbnb, reportedly had 660,000 listings as of 2017.[6]Although there are some negative outcomes surrounding Airbnb, it has overall benefitted many different economic sectors and vacation towns. These statistics explicitly show the increase in internet users who are interested in finding vacation homes through online platforms and this number is likely to grow in future years.

Although Airbnb’s platform has raised issues surrounding safety, privacy, racial bias, and other topical concerns, it has greatly benefitted the sharing economy. Often referred to as the “collaborative,” “platform,” or “gig” economy, this idea indicates the procedures that assist reliable transactions between strangers on a digital platform. These exchanges are only possible with the spread of technology that has made smartphones and internet accessible to a wide range of people. Websites such as Airbnb, Uber, and other online sharing platforms have enabled the ability to share one’s own private spaces, at their own risk, if they choose to do so. Airbnb also provides a source of income to those who are obligated to pay taxes on a second home.[7]It also benefits homeowners who infrequently stay at their second homes. Why have a second home sit empty eight months out of the year instead of regularly renting it out and making commission? It makes perfect sense. Concerns have also been brought up regarding Airbnb negatively impacting the hotel business; however, the website has expanded to include hotels as one of its listing categories, along with homes, apartments, cottages, and other sources of housing.

Airbnb also impacts the sharing economy in that it financially benefits both the homeowner and consumer. These websites have also partnered with well-known brands as well as local businesses to contribute to the economy in other sectors. These digital platforms have the potential to develop from competition and attentiveness to wealth to focusing on cooperation and a broader range of value which would greatly benefit people’s attitudes towards home ownership.[8]The so-called sharing economy has the potential to be a successful model; however, it must reduce the number of glitches and give less power to its users to avoid discrimination and other methods of taking advantage of the system.

A study conducted in 2015 by more than 800 tourists who had used Airbnb during the previous twelve months explicitly suggests their choice to use the online platform as a result of five factors: interaction, home benefits, novelty, sharing economy ethos, and local authenticity. The participants were divided into five different categories based on their intentions: money savers, home seekers, collaborative consumers, pragmatic novelty seekers, and interactive novelty seekers. Other studies over the years have similarly found motivations to use Airbnb to be price factors, household amenities, space, and authenticity.[9]These elements that explain the popularity of Airbnb and online home sharing platforms, cannot be applied to owning a vacation home because they are viewed as benefits to renting. This progression of the vacation home has evolved into an affordable luxury based off of technology that will most likely advance even more in the coming years

Airbnb undeniably has some issues to sort out and in doing so, the company will gain even more success. Specifically, safety and digital discrimination are two of the more significant topical concerns. Gregory Seldon, a twenty-five-year old African American man, tried to enquire about a room on Airbnb; however, he was told the room was not available by the host. Not thinking too much about the situation, he kept browsing the Airbnb website, only to find that the same room was showing up as available during his desired dates. He proceeded to make fake accounts on the website, which is another issue to discuss, with pictures of white men in the profile. He tried to book the same room that was unavailable to his true identity, yet this time, it was available. Selden then took to Twitter to share his concerning experience on the website. Little did he know; many other people have had similar encounters while using the Airbnb website. An African American woman reportedly was rejected by a few white hosts, before finally being approved to rent a home by an African American. Another woman stated that she had been approved more on Airbnb after changing her name and switching her profile photo to that of a landscape instead of a picture of her face.[10]If these websites are able to somehow fix these discriminatory issues, their popularity will increase even more, and they will completely take over the rental sector of the vacation home, if they have not already.

Another big issue that is associated with using Airbnb and other digital platforms is trust. Airbnb has created a genius marketing model in that it advertises homes in a way that makes the experience more than just staying in a stranger’s home. One host wrote on Airbnb that their experience involved, “meaningful exchanges that further build community, foster cultural exchange, and strengthen understanding.”[11]This type of advertising, that emphasizes community, friendship, and cultural understanding has increased Airbnb’s popularity and proved to be a useful tool in promoting their services.

Although there are some negative aspects to using online platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway that need to be explained and solved, there are more complications with owning a second home, which is increasing the popularity of these online programs. With technology rapidly advancing, people find it more convenient and efficient to pop up the Airbnb website on their smartphone browsers instead of going through the process of trying to buy a vacation home, not to mention the cost discrepancy associated between buying and renting homes. Even those who already own vacation homes are struggling with financial issues due to tax laws and not having the ability to occupy their second homes as much as they desire. This issue of whether online home rental platforms benefit or hurt the economy is a topical debate and is essential to understanding the positive and negative aspects associated with technology. These platforms are taking over the idea of planning a vacation and are the future of our world, whether we like it or not.


[1]Anthony D. King, “A Time for Space and a Space for Time: The Social Production of the Vacation House (1980).” In The People, Place, and Space Reader. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 298.

[2]Ibid, 300.

[3]Laurie S. Goodman, and Christopher Mayer. “Homeownership and the American Dream.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives32, no. 1 (2018): 31-58.

[4]Clare Cooper, “The House as Symbol of the Self (1974) ” In The People, Place, and Space Reader. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 168-171.

[5]Sara Tardiff. “Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday By Staying In One Of His Houses.” ELLE Decor. July 15, 2017. Accessed April 09, 2018.

[6]”Airbnb Fast Facts.” Airbnb. Accessed March 4 , 2018.

[7]Ryan Calo and Alex Rosenblat. “THE TAKING ECONOMY: UBER, INFORMATION, AND POWER.” Columbia Law Review117, no. 6 (2017): 1623-690.

[8]Juliet B. Schor. “Getting Sharing Right.” Contexts 14, no. 1 (2015): 14-15.

[9]Daniel Guttentag, Stephen Smith, Luke Potwarka, and Mark Havitz. “Why Tourists Choose Airbnb: A Motivation-Based Segmentation Study.” Journal of Travel Research57, no. 3 (April 27, 2017): 342-59. Accessed May 6, 2018. doi:10.1177/0047287517696980.

[10]Rutkin, Aviva. “Digital Discrimination.” New Scientist 231, no. 3084 (July 30, 2016): 18-19. Academic Search Premier, EBSCO host (accessed May 7, 2018).

[11]Caroline W. Lee. “The Sharers’ Gently-used Clothes.” Contexts14, no. 1 (2015): 17-18.


Cultural Tourism in America: The Quest for What It Means to Be “American”


The word ‘monument’ comes from the Latin term monitor, which means “to signify all things which call to mind the memory of some subject to those absent from this place or time” and is defined as “something erected in memory of a person, event, etc. as a building, pillar or statue.”[1]Monuments are made to honor the past and to pay homage to those who society should continue to remember beyond their time. By examining who or what people choose to memorialize, you can tell a lot about what the values or beliefs a culture may have. For this reason, monuments can carry political and social implications in how an audience may interpret them. “The monument expresses the power and sense of society that gives it meaning, and at the same time obscures competing claims for authority and meaning. Designed to be permanent, the actual monument, changes constantly as it renegotiates ideals, defining the past to affect the present and future.”[2]Many factors contribute to the interpretation of a statue and what it may or may not symbolize. The geographical positioning of a statue affects the way an audience perceives it. For example, a statue of Robert E. Lee may be received differently in a town in the South compared to a Northern city. Monuments are physical objects that we then place value and emotion on. Since historical events, upon retrospective examination, can be viewed as controversial, the monuments honoring them can create controversy as well. According to Nietzsche, “a ‘monumental’ view of the past, a particular kind of consciousness instantiated in the physical stone of monuments, represents “a belief in the coherence and continuity of what is great in all ages, it is a protest against the change of generations.”[3]This relationship between history and a nation show the connection that people have with whatever is being memorialized and how they view and choose to remember it.

Not only do these monuments symbolize a time in history for individuals in society, but they also join in the creation of a collective cultural heritage of a nation. The people and events of the past that a nation or region chooses to celebrate contributes greatly to their culture and demonstrates how they interpret and view their past and present heritage. For this very reason, millions of Americans and international tourists, travel each year to these historical sites and monuments to discover their own personal heritage, American heritage or see a culture vastly different from their own. “Monuments are important, because people want to see them, and when that quest is realized actually or virtually, monuments become social agents.”[4]These monuments are considered social agents when people wish to visit them and see them for themselves. The process of traveling to them and experiencing them, create notions of personhood and history that society places value on. Monuments are surrounded by movement–people travel to visit them, those that visit move through and around them, rituals, protests, all occur in front of or near them. The idea of monuments being connected to societal movement relates to cultural tourism. Cultural tourism is defined as,

the very nature of traveling in order to understand and become familiar with way of life and history of a specific location accompanied by a range of cultural factors which can be presented in the context of tourism, these factors may include the food, entertainment, architecture, drink, hand crafted and manufactured products or every element representing characteristics of way of life in a particular destination.[5]

These very significant artifacts and monuments help the individual to form and create their own version of their cultural history and to better understand a national history. A nation’s heritage is formed through the collective understanding of the masses of society as to what it is defined as. There are many facets and versions of a story and of history and for this reason there are many different ways that a monument can connect with an audience and represent various things, therefore, creating different meanings from one person to another.

We see this in the events of Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017. With the political climate at an all time tumultuous level with the recent election of President Donald Trump to office, tensions arose over the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee built in 1924. The statue shows the Confederate general on horseback, wielding a weapon and assumed to be headed into battle. The statue itself is not physically offensive, it is the man who it represents and who it was designed for that the contention arose from. With the Civil War nearly one-hundred-and-fifty years behind us, should we really be paying homage to a man that led an army whose entire battle cry and belief was the dissemination of the Union? Should we preserve and honor a man who fought to keep slavery a major artery of the South? These questions are still being contented in present day, but the majority of the opinions are leaning towards no. There are reasons that we memorialize an individual. Martin Luther King’s monument in Washington D.C. was erected to celebrate a man who led thousands of African America citizens in the fight for civil rights. He was a leader on one of the most changed paths in United States history and for this reason we honor him. But a man who represents ideals that our nation no longer, or ever truly wanted to believe in, why put a plaque on that name? There are two sides to this: first, there are those that feel that this is a true representation of our history and that it would be unethical to destroy something that was created in the past, and then there are those that hear this argument and point out the fact that a lot of these Confederate statues were built nearly fifty years after the Civil War ended. In the early 1900s, during the time of Jim Crow, these statues were seen as a form of enforcing and demonstrating white supremacy.[6]The events that occurred in Charlottesville, further demonstrate this reality given the fact that the group on the side that opposed the removal of the statues were neo-Nazi’s leading a white supremacy movement. The physical statue of Robert E. Lee demonstrates a time when the Confederates wished to overturn the balance and power of the Union and to create a new nation that would be governed by a white plantation aristocracy that existed since the creation of the colonies. The statue represents more than just the physical appearance of Robert E. Lee but the power and place that he came from and stood for. A dark era within the history of the United States that many acknowledge but do not feel is right to be memorialized.[7]The desire to understand and express American heritage is an idea as old as the nation itself and with the technological advancements seen within society, access to these monuments became increasingly easier.

After the Second World War, tourism boomed. Given the new advancements in technology and the financial prosperity that many experienced, the ability to travel and see different places around the United States became incredibly accessible. “Since that time, tourism has proved many times over to be one the most powerful economic, social, cultural, eco-logical and political forces in the world today.”[8]The creation of this new industry, sparked growing interest in pursuing that age old question of what it is to truly be “American.” This quest is as old as the times of Manifest Destiny. History naturally shaped and continues to contributes to how we define “American.” As Henry Nash Smith discusses in Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol & Myth, we see that this desire to define one’s heritage began at the start of the nation and continues to be a presence in modern society.

Men of Thomas Jefferson’s day emphasized freedom and republicanism as the defining characteristics of American society; the definitions of later thinkers stressed the cosmopolitan blending of a hundred peoples into one…but one of the most persistent generalizations concerning American life and character is the notion that our society has been shaped by the pull of a vacant continent drawing population westward.[9]

This idea of Manifest Destiny and a society being drawn from their homes out of pure curiosity is still seen in modern society. Despite our nation being fully populated from coast to coast and the idea of the frontier a notion of the past, Americans continue to be pioneers and find new ways to further exploration and the definition of “the American.”

The establishment of the railroad, as discussed in Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s, Railroad Space and Time, demonstrates how a new form of transportation not only changed how people moved from one place to another, but it also redefined the idea of space and time, suggesting that it was the “annihilation of space and time” in total. For the first time ever a given distance that would normally take a given amount of time to travel was completely turned on its head and changed, this distance was now obtainable in a much faster timeframe. The railroad knows only the point of birth and of destination and the places in between are lost among the travel.[10]This space in-between is a moving landscape as Mitchell Schwarzer discusses, “the moving landscape differs as well from the ordinary landscape. It is not a placer where we all live, work and interact… the moving landscape is a foremost produced zone.”[11]The complete change in space and time was the consequence and result of the railroad. We see this in the creation of a unified time system. Prior to the railroad, towns and regions all ran on their own separate time, when the railroad started to deliver people from one town to the next, the need for a standardized time and time zones emerged.[12]

The establishment of the New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt during the 1930s, created an explosion in infrastructure in the United States. Infrastructure in America typically takes on the name of people and not necessarily the place where the structure exists, for example the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey to New York up the Hudson River from Downtown Manhattan. This focus on naming infrastructure after people stressed the creation of public works for the people, by the people and for citizens to be proud of them. By dedicating these bridges, highways, and other structures to people it personified them and made them more than a space. Similar to how monuments take on the memory of the person that they symbolize or represent these structures became additional ways of showing and promoting American history and heritage. This original pride that infrastructure created after the New Deal, quickly diminished. Today, America has a deteriorating infrastructure system, with structures declining at a faster rate than they are being replaced. In the podcast by 99% Invisible, “Public Works: Rethinking America’s Transportation Infrastructure,” Henry Petroski discussed how money and the federal gas tax play a major role in the funding opportunities for American infrastructure. In today’s society, people value and show far more pride for their personal home or driveway over highways and national infrastructure. For this reason, there is less of an ambition to develop policy that would maintain and create better, longer-lasting and more attractive infrastructure, similar to other countries. This demonstrates how ideals can change throughout history. During the time of the New Deal, Americans were proud of the bridges that were being built and put a lot of thought into the aesthetic of them and other structures. Today, people are far less worried or bothered by how a bridge may look and, in many ways, take these forms of infrastructure for granted. By way of taxes, we are all part owners of the federal infrastructure and because of this we should want to be proud of it and what it represents.[13]

After the creation of railroads, came the automobile and eventually the national highway system. The creation of the automobile satisfied “a real need for transportation–a need as basic as food, clothing and shelter–but argues that this need has changed as the social and spatial patterns of American culture have changed.”[14]This new form of transport allowed for an even easier way to gain access to areas that many could not reach prior to this. It, in many ways, opened a new frontier. Pretty soon, the United States was a nation of drivers and with this transportation revolution, came an incredible expansion of access. People were able to reach places that they previously had only heard of before. It was economical and possible to go on vacation to areas far away. The eventual introduction of airplanes and air travel furthered the transportation revolution and only accelerated the time and space metamorphosis that the railroad started. This increase in transportation availability and opportunities caused a major spike in tourism. The growth of tourism sparked a new aspect to the idea of the American, sites became historical and national parks became destinations. Going on vacation used to be only be a primarily elite pastime, left only to the nations wealthiest groups. With the introduction of the automobile, it became readily available for the middle class to take part in. The car changed the nature of traveling, “they could travel at their own pace, move around from place to place, wander off the beaten track, and even enjoy the trip to one’s destination.”[15]This ability to meander to ones destination made it possible to make multiple stops along the way, which was beneficial for these monuments and historical locations that could be seen as a stop on the way to various places. The creation of the tourism industry not only created economic benefits but also gave local populations an opportunity to be proud of their unique heritage and to have the chance to share it with others, developing the idea of cultural heritage on both a local and national level.

An area’s historical identity and cultural heritage is created by that town, city, or nation. This can be seen in the example of the Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia. This statue, although completely constructed after a fictional character, has now weaved its way into the cultural heritage of Philadelphia and the suburbs around it. Despite its fictional foundation, the city continues to rally behind Rocky, believing that it is a metaphor for hope and a symbol that “greatness can come out of this city” as well as an artistic representation of the hopes and dreams of Philly. It speaks to the white working class individual, who historically populated the city, further contributing to their cultural heritage. As one of the city’s most famous pieces of public art, the statue sees thousands of tourists each year. During Super Bowl LII, in 2018, the statue was the site of celebration for many fans after the Philadelphia Eagle’s victory. This is an example of the social consequences that statues can create and how they contribute to tourism and heritage as well. An entire city can rally behind a statue of a fictional man who they believe embodies the city’s goals and aspirations.[16]

This national quest for cultural heritage that can be found within the history that monuments preserve is aided in the development of transportation technology that created better access to these locations to allow more people to explore these ideas of the past, present and future. Monuments preserve the past but help to shape the ideals that should remain engrained in the present society. Just as it was in the times of the frontier, there will always be a desire in the American spirit to continue to search for the true meaning of what it means to be an American and what aspects of society we can look and study in hopes of creating a better understanding of what this may be. The two-hundred-year old idea of Manifest Destiny continues to beat in the hearts of American people, whether in the same way that Smith was referring to, or a more modern version, Americans still seek lands and adventures beyond where they currently stand in hopes of finding what it truly means to be “American.”

[1]Hamilton, Annette. “Monuments and memory.” Continuum 3, no. 1 (1990): 101-114.

[2]Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin. Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade.(University of Chicago, 2003), 5.

[3]Levinson, Sanford. Written in stone: Public monuments in changing societies. Duke University Press, 1998.

[4]Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin. Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade.(University of Chicago, 2003), 5.

[5]Mousavi, Sina, Naciye Doratli Seyed, Seyed Nima Mousavi, and Fereshte Moradiahari. “„Defining Cultural Tourism.“.” In U International Conference on Civil, Architecture and Sustainable Development, pp. 1-2.

[6]Winberry, John J. “” Lest We Forget”: The Confederate monument and the Southern townscape.” Southeastern Geographer 23, no. 2 (1983): 107-121.

[7]Fortin, Jacey. “The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm.” The New York Times (2017).

[8]Timothy, Dallen J., and Stephen W. Boyd. “Heritage tourism in the 21st century: Valued traditions and new perspectives.” Journal of heritage tourism 1, no. 1 (2006): 1-16.

[9]Smith, Henry Nash. “Virgin land; the American West as symbol and myth.” (1950).

[10]Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. “Railroad space and railroad time.” New German Critique 14 (1978): 31-40.

[11]Schwarzer, Mitchell. “The moving landscape.” Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (2003): 83-102.

[12]Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. “Railroad space and railroad time.” New German Critique 14 (1978): 31-40.

[13]99% Invisible. Public Works: Rethinking America’s Transportation Infrastructure. 2016

[14]David L. Lewis and Laurence Goldstein. The Automobile and American Culture. (University of Michigan, 1980) 90.

[15]Weiss, Thomas. “Tourism in America before World War II.” The Journal of Economic History 64, no. 2 (2004): 289-327.

[16]Visit Philadelphia. “The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps.”

Inequalities in American Cities

The Inequality of American Cities

        America was founded with the understanding that it would be the land of the free and the home of the brave. The founders of this country sought to separate themselves from the oppression that they had faced under the rule of the British and King George III. America was meant to be a country where everyone was created equal, that is what it says in our constitution. What happens though, when this identity does not come true, and instead the oppression is just transferred to a different group or groups? In reality American identity is not a universal truth; it unfortunately applies only to certain people. The oppression that some people feel is especially evident when looking at the history of cities. American cities have evolved over the centuries and now represent a melting pot of the American people. A unique quality of cities is that they represent an accumulation of different racial groups. Although this melting pot should allow for different groups, people, ideas and beliefs to interact with one another, instead the laws and social practices in cities promote the opposite. Many cities have long histories of inequality, and rather than fix them, the separation gap in American cities is growing even larger and the inherent problems are becoming more severe. The social interaction of a city and its elements vary entirely on the individual’s experience (Lynch 50-55). One may be able to turn a blind eye to inequality that others see on a daily basis, purely based on their individual perspective. These individualized experiences have allowed for exclusionary practices to flourish. These qualities are not unique to just one American city but are reproduced in every city across the country. There are many issues that are seen within cities but the biggest issue that cities are facing is the growing inequality in racial groups. Cities are seeing a large increase in tensions between black communities and police officers, specifically. This is a long-standing issue and these tensions are coming to a head through the Black Lives Matter campaign.

        It is important to understand that the inequality present in cities did not just appear in one day. Black Americans have faced issues of inequality going all the way back to our country’s roots. Racial discrimination is something that has been embedded in the American identity since its creation. The white elite mindset was present from the moment the first explorers arrived in America and unfortunately does not only apply to Black Americans. Before slaves from Africa were brought to America, the Native Americans faced a fate that would be all too familiar to many throughout the country’s history. When the white male settlers came to America and met the Native Americans they had a goal of assimilating them. The men viewed the Native’s lifestyle as inferior to the European way and determined that it was their duty to change their way of life. While the American colonies grew, the Natives faced a growing amount of inequality. This is the first time that people on American soil faced inequality and unfortunately this foreshadowed future discrimination. The Native American homes were taken from them and they were forced off of their ancestral homeland. As the white population grew and the Natives’ stake on the land was decreasing, the importation of slaves from Africa began. In 1619, a Dutch man in Chesapeake ordered the first African slaves to arrive in America (Berlin, 29). These slaves were immediately viewed as inferior to the Americans based on their skin color. Much of what the Native Americans went through was now happening to the slaves and the few free blacks. This visual difference would dictate the way that history would unfold going forward. This importation of African slaves forever altered the way of life in America.

        Over the next 2 and half centuries, as the country grew, so did slavery thus creating an inequality that would become deep seeded in American life. This ultimately led to the divide within the country and the succession of the Southern states to create the Confederacy (Bates 2010). Much of the Southern identity and economy was generated from the slave trade, so the potential of losing this was a threat to the fundamental ideas of the Southern American. The South was fighting to keep the establishment of slavery embedded in the American government. Little did the Southerners that they had put in place a system of oppression of Black Americans that would remain in place long after slavery was abolished.  The conditions that black slaves faced were incredibly harsh and demeaning. This diminished way of thinking about human life as lesser and not equal, created a certain view of people of different skin colors that permeated society. This viewpoint also influenced the way people of all races interacted with their cities and surroundings. Individual experiences of both whites and blacks influenced the way they viewed themselves and how they projected themselves to the world. Certain ways of living were created out of these experiences and the image of city and self developed around these practices. After the Civil War and the victory of the Union, African Americans thought that they would finally have their chance at freedom and equality. They thought that the affordances that had always been given to the white elite, would finally be given to them (Gibson 56-60).

        At the abolishment of slavery, many laws were passed with the intention of giving African Americans the same rights as the white Americans. Even though laws were passed, social practices remained deeply rooted in the American structure. With the ending of slavery, many Southern cities had to find a new source of income that was not surrounded around free labor. Southern cities attempted to create a new identity they called the “New South” (Link 2015). One of the American cities aiming to grow out of the Civil War was Atlanta. Atlanta attempted to embrace this Reconstruction period positively. This southern city wanted to show that it would integrate the people smoothly and effortlessly. The city created 5 African American Colleges in the immediate years following the Civil War. To the elite white class, this seemed like a positive step in the right direction. Even though the city created these colleges it was simultaneously sending the message that it did not want the white and black students to integrate (Link 2015). As the city grew and areas began to become designated black and white places, racial tensions began to increase rapidly (Link 2015). There was a growing amount of violence against black Atlantans. This was a new form of oppression in a more social sphere. The people of the city began to create their own sense of “city image” and the image varied depending on your race (Lynch 50). Atlanta was not the only American city dealing with oppression but while other cities went through integration smoother than the South, it was a trend that socially structured inequalities were still present.

        The violence that black Americans faced was running rampant across the country and especially in cities in the years following the Civil War. The Ku Klux Klan gained a lot of traction in southern cities and used their increasing numbers to violently attack blacks (Dixon 2004). Many blacks were lynched by white KKK members veiled in white cone top robes (Dixon 2004). This was meant to show that whites had all the power and that blacks were continuously inferior (Dixon 2004). Along with the lynches by the KKK, race riots were common and often resulted in huge amounts of violence. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 showed the country that the inequalities from before The Civil War were still present. On the night of September 22, 1906, the news reported that there were 4 separate acts of black men sexually assaulting white women (Burns 2009). Immediately after hearing the reports, thousands of white Atlanta residents headed to the streets and senselessly attacked any black in sight (Burns 2009). The race riot lasted 3 days and at the end of it 25 blacks were murdered with many others injured (Burns 2009). This riot gained global attention and was a shock to the world. The country that claimed all men were created equal was still practicing inequality. These acts of violence at the hands of white men went unpunished and continued throughout much of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the violence did not stop at physical violence, structural violence was also practiced on a day to day basis.

        Structurally, the city dynamic was becoming increasingly hostile. Certain spaces and jobs were off limits because of your skin color. The police force became a center of controversy over the years. After blacks were freed many of them attempted to get jobs in the police force. It would make sense to join the police force in the hopes that it would alter the way the system operated. As black men began to apply for jobs at the city police stations across the country, they were met with much resistance. The overwhelming issue was that white men who worked in the force did not want to have a colored man as their boss. The white citizens also took issue in the idea of being policed by black police officers (Watts 1973). This caused a growing tension between the blacks and police officers that is very much so present in our political climate today.

        The extreme policing practices also had to do with the growing city populations. The transition from agricultural life to an industrial lifestyle occurred after the Civil War. This transition caused a huge influx of people to move to the city. The requirement for more space and buildings in cities was important. Apartments seemed to pop up overnight in an attempt to suit the needs of the growing population. Cities were a cheaper alternative for blacks. Apartments also allowed for the concentration of blacks in one place or neighborhood. This sort of congregation became a sort of paradox. Whites feared living in the proximity of blacks while at the same time feared the congregation of blacks in one place. This fear led to the demand of more regulated neighborhoods. This regulation lead to the creation of two new government policies that were masked as a way to help the poor. The only thing these laws did not mention was that the laws were primarily for racially diverse groups (Carter, Schill, & Wachter 1998).

        The first of the two laws went into place in 1933 as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. One was the creation of the Federal Housing Administration which was intended to help alleviate the housing crisis that was occurring in America. In reality, and in practice, the laws actually promoted segregation on a new government level (Gross 2017). The new government policies made it nearly impossible to secure mortgages in or around African-American neighborhoods. This practice became known as “redlining”. At the same time that the government was prohibiting African-Americans to housing, the government was also incentivizing builders to “mass produce entire subdivisions for white” (Gross 2017). There was no requirement that any of these houses be sold to African-Americans. The colored Americans were being excluded from the picture. They were not given any opportunity to benefit from these new housing developments which of course were in the best parts of the city. Richard Rothstein explores in depth this practice of redlining and believes that “the segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads… to stagnant inequality, because families are much less able to be upwardly mobile when they’re living in segregated neighborhoods where opportunity is absent” (Gross 2017). Because African-Americans were pushed out, they moved in to areas that were underdeveloped. These underdeveloped areas became associated with African-American identity and because they were viewed as inferior no one ever developed property in the area. This housing inequality developed all over the country leaving blacks with few places to live and therefore fewer opportunities.

Alongside with the Federal Housing Administration, the government began to create public housing. There was a large demand for more regulated housing and so in response, cities began to create public housing. Public housing was meant to be a development that cities could be proud of and would show their desire to give people who could not afford houses the opportunity for housing. Many viewed public housing as a positive opportunity for those who could not normally afford housing. Atlanta was the first city to create public housing. In 1936, the city would build the Techwood Villages. This was an impressive development and gave housing opportunities to 600 families. This seemed like a huge step in the right direction for not only the city of Atlanta but also any city that followed suit. The downside though, is that as lower income families began to move in to the neighborhood, middle and upper class white families moved out. The more lower income housing there was in the city, the further wealthy whites pushed out into the suburbs. With the lack of investment from wealthy whites or the government, the neighborhoods remained in despair and fell apart. It became very hard for cities to help public housing developments stay afloat and in good shape (Goetz 2013).

As the 1900’s raged on, the racial injustice in cities did not come to an end and instead, continued to have a grip on American society. Rising tensions, especially in the South, led to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. This movement presented a chance for the wrongs of the past to finally be righted and for equality to be reached. During the Civil Rights Movement, people of all races came together in hopes of fixing the racial injustice of the past. Through the Civil Rights movement, some sought for equality that had been denied to them, while others fought against it. There were strong showings of police brutality throughout this movement. On many occasions, the peaceful marches were met with force from police departments. The police showed their full force and their desire to only protect a select few. This use of force added to the deep seeded distrust that some Americans already felt towards police. After the Civil Rights Movement, many of the injustices still remained only now they were hidden deeper in the system. Cities still created inequality (Harmon 87-88).

With all the struggles the black Americans had faced since their arrival in America, they still held onto the hope that justice would be served, and equality would be reached. Unfortunately, the injustice still raged on. Cops continue to be at the forefront of the injustice or perhaps it appears so because they are the most visible. Many crimes still rage on in cities and blacks seem to be the focus of many of the cases. In 1979, and for two years following, Atlanta was riddled with one of the most horrific serial killers in the country. This killer ended up being a black man named Wayne Williams and even though the evidence points to him as the killer, many question the conviction. They believe that his conviction is just a repeat of the injustice from the police and government (Atlanta Monster). In New York City in 1989, a woman went running around Central Park a little after dusk. While on her run, she was brutally raped, beaten up, and left to die (Burns 2012). Also, in the park that night was a group of about 15 Black and Hispanic boys who lived in Harlem (Burns 2012). 5 of these boys were brought in for questioning that would last for multiple hours and in some cases, they were prohibited from seeing their parents even though they were minors. After hours of interrogation with no food or sleep, many falsely confessed to being at the scene of the crime and the rape. Even with these confessions, the evidence did not point to the boys as being potentially involved. However, they still went to trial and were convicted. These boys became known as the Central Park 5 and served time in jails all across New York State. Years after the convictions and time in jail, the true serial rapist stepped forward (Burns 2012). These boys were wrongfully convicted primaril based off of their race and the assumption that they were hoodlums in a gang (Burns 2012). The tales of wrongful arrests and convictions could go on forever and are still happening today. The force that police use against blacks is an ongoing problem in spite of public outcry. Even more recently, cities have started to tear down public housing because the belief is that crime rates are higher when there is public housing. In 2011 Atlanta, which was the first city to build public housing, torn down all of its public housing (Goetz 2013). Public housing that was built is being left uncared for and in a state of disrepair and as a result the area around it begins to fail. This is not the fault of the people who live there, rather because of the failure to invest in the area.

When it is all said and done America regrettably is not actually the land of the free. It may be the home of the brave; the brave people who stand up against injustice every day, but not everyone is free. Cities are a place in this country where everything is concentrated in to a small area. The close quarters and lifestyles allow for many people of different walks of life to be in one place at one time. The downside to this concentration is that people are living different lives. The paths and edges that mark my understanding of a city could be completely different for someone else. This uniqueness is part of what makes a city great but it also a pitfall. It allows for people to stay in their own bubble and ignore the issues that are not directly in front of them. The issues that the modern day Black Lives Matter movement addresses are not new issues. They are issues that have been growing quietly for some and more loudly for others since the creation of the country. The inequalities inherent in our country still stand strong and are felt by many every day. Police brutality has not ended and if anything, it is getting worse. It is more visible now and harder to ignore. In order to  resolve the injustices we need to start by changing our cities. Policies need to be made to once and for all provide for equal education, equal living, and equal job opportunities. It is also important to educate people that expecting everyone to fit in the box that white elites have created is neither realistic nor positive. Clearly the mindset and American identity we have lived with until this point is not inclusive. We need to foster a new generation that understands the importance of inclusion and working together to eliminate the remnants of the slave state that persist even today in order to actually be a land of the free.


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Rothstein, Richard. “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” Economic Policy Institute, 2017, how-our-government-segregated-america/.

“Segregation.” New Georgia Encyclopedia,

Wahl, Rachel. “No Justice, No Peace?: The Police, People of Color, and the Paradox of Protecting Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 39 no. 4, 2017, pp. 811-831. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/hrq.2017.0050

Watts, Eugene J. “The Police in Atlanta, 1890-1905.” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 39, no. 2, 1973, pp. 165–182. JSTOR, JSTOR,

The Past, Present, and Future of Criminal Justice Reform in New England – Corey Wise

AMST 335

Professor Gieseking

Corey Wise

The Past, Present, and Future of Criminal Justice Reform in New England

Understanding what America is requires retrospective understanding of its past, acknowledgement of its present, and honest appraisal of its future.  Although the past may not always be something of which we are proud, there is value in learning from both the mistakes and the successes of all of our ancestors.  Making the United States into a place that we all want to live in requires a critical look at our past and present as a means to shape a better and more-inclusive future.  In this paper, the debate and progress on criminal justice reform will be described as it applies to the geographical imagination of the New England Village, with a particular focus on how these reforms would be represented in 2038.  Where applicable, the Town of Wayland, Massachusetts, will be highlighted as a case study for specific examples.

It is important to understand the sobering and depressing statistics around America’s failing criminal justice system when assessing criminal justice reform.  In the book Reinventing American Criminal Justice, Michael Tonry’s chapter, “Making American Sentencing Just, Humane, and Effective,” brings to light many of the startling inequalities demonstrated in the justice system.  Over the past 30 years, imprisonment in America rose from 160 people per 100,000 population, to a staggering 753 per 100,000.[1]  This number is not only more than double what it was in the 70s and 80s, but it also is 8 times greater than the European average.  Michael Tonry writes, “The implications of the literatures on deterrence and incapacitation are straightforward:  fewer convicted offenders should be sent to prison and for shorter times.  There are no evidence-based grounds for believing that the use of prison sentences generally and lengthy ones in particular has significant crime-preventive effects.  There is good evidence that imprisonment fails to reduce later offending and may increase it.”[2]  This shows that the unjust imprisonment rates don’t even serve the purpose of rehabilitation or deterrence, but in reality destroy lives that can lead to more crime with repeat offenders.  Tonry contends that the “short-term goal should be to reduce the national imprisonment rate by half by 2020, essentially to turn the clock back to where things stood in the mid-1980s.  The longer-term goal should be to regain by 2030 an imprisonment rate of 160 per 100,000.”[3]  The decrease is needed, as never before has this alarmingly high rate of imprisonment been the American standard.  This current rate isn’t really an acceptable standard in any country.

Justice and fairness have always been a concern in American history.  The New England Village was established with strong roots in communal living and shared resources, as seen in the creation of town commons and the town meeting form of representational government.[4]  The New England Village, at its idealistic best, was the original proponent of living your best life through community engagement, as exemplified by sharing the experiences of safety, security, resources, and infrastructure with fellow villagers.  It is important to note that prime land was (and still is) carved out to share communally and not just for individual profit.[5]  While the Puritan New England Village was quite intolerant and punitive in nature, with punishments often embracing public humiliation, physical harm, and banishment, the New England Village evolved into a more tolerant and compassionate geographical imagination as the centuries unfolded.  The Transcendentalism movement of the mid-1800s helped soften the inflexibility of the earliest New England Village settlements through its philosophical belief in the power of the individual, inherent divinity of all things, and moral responsibility of man to do the right thing.  Henry David Thoreau reiterated this idea in his book Walden, by saying, “Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”[6]

The town where I grew up, Wayland, Massachusetts, exhibits the traits of the New England Village in multiple ways.  In its agrarian past, Wayland residents shared communal resources such as Cow Common, the town green where First Parish and the major town intersections are located, and the militia training field on Training Field Road[7].  More recently, as Wayland became more of a suburb of Boston as opposed to a self-contained New England Village, its citizens quickly prioritized the preservation of conservation land in balance with development.  Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, his inspiration for Transcendentalism, is an integral part of the fabric of Wayland’s schools and community, epitomized by the annual 6th grade Wayland Middle School bike trip to Walden Pond.  This is a rite of passage in which most of Wayland (students, teachers, parents, police and fire departments, neighbors along the route, etc.) gets involved every fall.

The modern New England Village has felt the full effect of suburbanization and evolution of technology and transportation.  The New England Village has collided with modern transportation and suburbanization, with many villages becoming de facto bedroom suburbs of larger metropolitan cities such as New York City, Boston, etc.  There is, however, a continued commitment to the town meeting form of representational government and preservation of public lands for the use and enjoyment of all.  The current New England Villages within Massachusetts have met the challenges of the failing criminal justice system by recently passing landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.  On April 13, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed this sweeping legislation into law.[8]  S2371 (An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform) and H4012 (An Act Implementing the Joint Recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review) became Chapters 69 and 72, respectively, of the Acts of 2018, making them laws of the Commonwealth.[9]  The drive behind these reforms is to grant the ability to turn one’s life around after imprisonment more freely and easily.  These pieces of legislation were compromise bills that combined aspects of competing House and Senate versions from last year.

Some of the key points of this criminal justice reform legislation, as outlined by Massachusetts State Senator William Brownsberger, Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee were as follows:  1) decriminalize minor offenses, 2) divert minor offenses away from prosecution/incarceration, 3) reform bail to reduce unnecessary incarceration, 4) repeal/limit mandatory minimums for non-opiate, non-weight retail drug offenses, 5) strengthen minimum mandatories for opioid trafficking, 6) strengthen protections for public safety, 7) reduce solitary confinement, 8) generally improve prison conditions, 9) release prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk, 10) make it easier for people to get back on their feet, 11) take better care of juveniles and young adults, 12) improve transparency of the criminal justice system, 13) better protect women in the criminal justice system, and lastly, 14) reduce and remedy errors of justice[10].    The present New England Village has taken the bull by its horns and set the benchmark from which to further refine much-needed criminal justice reforms.  Wayland’s State Legislators, State Senator Richard Ross (R) and State Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch (D), have wholeheartedly endorsed these criminal justice reforms from their legislative inception in a bipartisan and collaborative manner.

Criminal justice reform will be more evolved and progressive by 2038 in the New England Village.  The criminal justice reform laws were always viewed as a work-in-progress, an initial blueprint upon which to change the criminal justice system from merely punitive into one which, in the words of MA State Senator William Brownsberger, “is about lifting people up instead of locking people up.  And it is about cutting the chains that hold people down when they are trying to get back on their feet.  And it is about better protecting the public from drugs and violence.”[11]  Twenty years from now, the diversion programs for veterans, the mentally ill, and addicted, that take the place of incarceration, will be robust and be more tailored to address the specific needs of these individuals.  There will be a greater understanding and acceptance of what drives certain individuals to commit crimes in the first place, and how to best meet their needs as well as the needs of their victims.  By 2038, there will hopefully be a reduction in prison populations as these diversion programs become the preferred method of treatment.  Sentencing will, once again, be more in the hands of the local judges, who will no longer be bound by the mandatory minimums for minor offenses and non-opiate drug offenses.  There will ideally be an equitable distribution of diversion programs throughout the Commonwealth, so that there is a shared commitment to helping veterans, the mentally ill, and addicted.  There will likely be legislation that mandates this equitable distribution of diversion programs across all towns of the Commonwealth of MA, similar to Chapter 40B legislation, the Affordable Housing Zoning Law.  Chapter 40B was enacted with the goal of producing more affordable housing throughout Massachusetts, as well as making housing more accessible.  40B specifies that the “standard is for communities to provide a minimum of 10% of their housing inventory as affordable.”[12]  Massachusetts always seems to be at the forefront of this type of progressive legislation, in keeping with its reputation as a liberal bastion.

In twenty years, transition programs to assist recently-freed inmates (as well as those who have successfully completed diversion programs) successfully reintegrate into society will have been developed and modified to meet best practices.  There will be additional legislation that further decriminalizes marijuana by 2038, and the majority of opiate-addicted individuals who commit crimes will be offered rehabilitation treatment in lieu of jail time.  Solitary confinement will no longer be an acceptable form of discipline in prison.  Other states will enact similar legislation in response to the success exhibited in Massachusetts.  Hopefully, the federal government will also enact similar criminal justice reform laws.  As a continued positive development coming out of the initial criminal justice reforms of the 2010s, legislation that modifies and curtails felony disenfranchisement will be passed at the state levels, and ideally also at the federal level.

Both the past and present New England Village share many common traits with regards to criminal justice.  Both are built on representational government and fairness, a building block of almost all successful towns and villages.  Another similarity is deep roots in the expectation of  individual contributions to the collective betterment of the whole group.  A sense of community is important, and settlements can only succeed when everyone works together.  This concept lies parallel to a lifestyle of communal living and shared resources.  In more modern times, the progressive, liberal thinking embraced in the New England Village is important in creating a connected and well-guided town and state.

Criminal justice reform will play an even bigger role in the collective consciousness of 2038, arguably more than it has in both early America and the present day.  As mentioned previously, the 2038 New England Village will continue pushing the envelope on criminal justice reform, using current literature and experience to improve reforms in a way that is fair and just to all.  The 2038 New England Village will look to all of its past collective heritage in informing its future.  Based on its roots, the 2038 New England Village will continue its progressive mindset and will hopefully have achieved some success with respect to reducing the prison population, developing state-of-the-art diversion programs as a viable alternative to incarceration, and creating transition programs that allow individuals who have been in the criminal justice system to seamlessly integrate back into society.  The Town of Wayland, Massachusetts, will maintain its position as a quintessential New England Village, and will be at the forefront of supporting continued criminal justice reforms, in addition to other progressive initiatives.  An area that could be a source of potential pushback would likely come from any future legislation mandating a set percentage of diversion programs within each town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  While progressive in most state initiatives, town leaders and citizens groups have shown the strongest opposition over the years to proposed 40B developments, which often have to be scaled down or scrapped due to political and legal pressure, in a classic “NIMBY” (“Not In My Back Yard”) mentality.

A very important thing to remember is that American democracy needs to be promoted in any criminal justice reforms.  The 2038 New England Village, in its attempt to advance criminal justice reform, will push an agenda that promotes American democracy.  One of the many travesties of the previous decades of the criminal justice system is that the system has unfairly targeted certain minorities, namely blacks and Hispanics.  Another travesty of the 2017 criminal justice system is that it has a one-size-fits-all approach for all offenses, namely jail time, and does nothing to address the very real roles that struggles such as PTSD, mental illness, and addiction play in the committing of a vast majority of crimes.  An American democracy functions best when it allows everyone to live one’s best life.  Addressing and implementing criminal justice reforms now and in the future goes a long way towards meeting the most ideal definition of democracy.  Wayland has been at the forefront of access and inclusion throughout its history, particularly in the post-Puritan era.  Some examples of this includes the Wayland Town Library, which is the 2nd free library in the nation, and Wayland High School, which started providing gender-neutral bathrooms 2 years ago.[13]

There is plenty of evidence from the American Studies 335 course literature to support the role of the New England Village with respect to criminal justice reform issues in 2038.  A review of the literature covered provides a few examples of how the New England Village geographical imagination lent support to criminal justice reform issues in the past, present, and future.  In the past, the pastoral ideal was essentially codified in the New England Village geographical imagination, and was “embodied in various utopian schemes for making America the site of a new beginning for Western society.  In both forms—one literary and the other in essence political—the ideal has figured in the American view of life.”[14]  In this pastoral ideal, there is always the sense that we can and should do right by our fellow man, with a focus on seeing the good versus bad in a person, no matter how flawed someone is.  There is an inherent belief that a flawed person still has some redeemable qualities.

The modern-day tension of respecting and learning from the past while accommodating the needs and values of today is perfectly summarized by J.B. Jackson when he states, “Almost by definition an inhabited landscape is the product of incessant adaptation and conflict:  adaptation to what is often a new and bewildering natural environment, conflict between groups of people with very dissimilar views as to how to make that adaptation.  The political landscape, artificial though it may be, is the realization of an archetype, of a coherent design inspired by philosophy or religion, and it has a distinct purpose in view.”[15]  New England Villages, including Wayland, have had to balance past practices, many of which have been proven ineffective over time, with new research on criminal justice, in order to develop the criminal justice reform legislation of 2018.

The challenge for New England Villages like Wayland going forward is to continue to evolve while remaining inclusive and accepting of conflicting viewpoints.  In the year 2038, an even greater variety of beliefs, constituents, and conflicts will need to be incorporated into the New England Village.  In reading about polarization, one author said, “What is emerging nonetheless counts as a significant change.  With a dramatic increase in options and a greater power to customize comes a corresponding increase in the range of actual choices, and those choices are likely, in many cases, to match demographic characteristics, preexisting political convictions, or both.”[16]  The same article also goes on to say, “If diverse groups are seeing and hearing quite different points of view, or focusing on quite different topics, mutual understanding might be difficult, and it might be increasingly hard for people to solve problems that society faces together.”[17]  One of the greatest future challenges for the New England Village, and even for democracy, is to remain open and receptive to all its citizens, and not devolve into myopic, one-sided visions of our shared community.  Even with seemingly non-harmonious opposing views, it is critical that our society work together in the future, in order to produce the best possible outcomes for agendas such as the criminal justice system.

In 2038, the landmark legislation of Massachusetts’s bipartisan criminal justice reforms will be 21 years old.  Hopefully, by then, other states and the federal government will have passed similar legislation.  The past, present, and future geographical imagination of the New England Village has played, and will continue to play, a key role in the migration of criminal justice reforms towards more rehabilitation and less incarceration.  As a nearly ideal representation of the New England Village, the Town of Wayland, Massachusetts, has played a vital and progressive role in leading and supporting the dialogue around criminal justice reform.  American democracy that is fair and just for all of its citizens will benefit from continued criminal justice reforms, allowing everyone to live a life well lived.


Brownsberger, Will. “Final Criminal Justice Package Released.” Will Brownberger – State Senator. March 23, 2018. Accessed May 06, 2018.


Brownsberger, Williams, Cynthia Stone Creem, Bruce Tarr, Claire Cronin, Ronald Mariano, and Sheila Harrington. “Bill S.2371.” The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Accessed May 06, 2018.


Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. Fact Sheet on Chapter 40B The State’s Affordable Housing Zoning Law. PDF. Boston, October 2009.


Foster, David R., Brian Donahue, David Kittredge, Glenn Motzkin, Brian Hall, Billie Turner, and Elizabeth Chilton. New England’s Forest Landscape. PDF. Massachusetts, 2008.


Gieseking, Jen Jack, and William Mangold. The People, Place, and Space Reader. New York: Routledge, 2014.


Jackson, John Brinkerhoff. “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes.” In The People, Place, and Space Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, 259-62. Routledge, 2014.


Marx, Leo. Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2000.


Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Historic Landscape Preservation Initiative. Putting Historic Landscape Preservation on Solid Ground. PDF. Massachusetts.


McCall, Alison. “DAY TRIPPING: Cow Common Rich with History.” The Sudbury Town Crier. July 31, 2014. Accessed May 06, 2018.


Sunstein, Cass. #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Princeton University Press, 2017


Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: Life in the Woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854.


Tonry, Michael H., and Daniel Nagin. Reinventing American Criminal Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.


Walker, Craig F. “Charlie Baker to Sign off on Sweeping Criminal Justice Bill.” The Boston Globe. April 13, 2018. Accessed May 06, 2018.


Writer, Susan L. WagnerStaff. “Two Wayland High Bathrooms to Be Gender-inclusive.” Wicked Local Wayland. June 02, 2016. Accessed May 06, 2018.


[1] Michael H. Tonry, and Daniel Nagin, Reinventing American Criminal Justice, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2017), p. 493.

[2] Tonry and Nagin, Reinventing American Criminal Justice, P.459

[3] Tonry and Nagin, Reinventing American Criminal Justice, p.460

[4] Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Historic Landscape Preservation Initiative, Putting Historic Landscape Preservation on Solid Ground, (Massachusetts).

[5] David R. Foster, Brian Donahue, David Kittredge, Glenn Motzkin, Brian Hall, Billie Turner, and Elizabeth Chilton, New England’s Forest Landscape, (Massachusetts, 2008).

[6] Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Life in the Woods, (Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1854), p. 68.

[7] Alison McCall, DAY TRIPPING: Cow Common Rich with History, (The Sudbury Town Crier, 2014).

[8] Craig F. Walker, Charlie Baker to Sign off on Sweeping Criminal Justice Bill, (The Boston Globe, 2018).

[9] Williams Brownsberger, Cynthia Stone Creem, Bruce Tarr, Claire Cronin, Ronald Mariano, and Sheila Harrington, Bill S.2371, (The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2018).

[10] Will Brownsberger, Final Criminal Justice Package Released, (Will Brownberger – State Senator, 2018)

[11] Brownsberger, Final Criminal Justice Package Released.

[12] Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, Fact Sheet on Chapter 40B The State’s Affordable Housing Zoning Law, (Boston, 2009).

[13] Susan L. Wagner, Two Wayland High Bathrooms to Be Gender-inclusive, (Wicked Local Wayland, 2016).

[14] Leo Marx, Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, (Oxford University Press, 2000).

[15] J.B. Jackson, A Pair of Ideal Landscapes. (In The People, Place, and Space Reader, Routledge, 2014).

[16] Cass Sunstein, #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, (Princeton University Press, 2017), p. 66.

[17] Sunstein, #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media, p. 68.

Are The Suburbs In Decline?

The suburbs: this highly romanticized location was once the Holy Grail for nuclear families in America; however, this is not true in today’s world. In the past decade, the suburbs have gone into decline, due to numerous reasons, with the first being that millennials have absolutely no desire to live there. Additionally, there is a perception that nothing happens in the suburbs and has been regarded as a conventional, dreary land with no opportunity in store for them. Thus, many of today’s young, working class desire and flock to urban areas to live in. Poverty is another contributor to this shift, as it has now overwhelmed the suburbs, due to the influx of wealth coming into cities from these once prosperous communities. This flood of wealth has resulted in cities becoming an increasingly affluent place to live, forcing out those who can no longer afford to live there, which has attributed, at least in part, to the abandonment of now low-quality, inner-ring suburbs. As these areas become more occupied with minority residents, police presences within these areas also rises, leading to an upsurge in crime rates as the police are more likely to arrest residents based of racial biases and prejudices. The suburbs were viewed as a positive development for Americans when they were first constructed because they provided many young families with a home of their own – a luxury they could not have afforded before. Nevertheless, this opportunity also came with its fair share of problems, which ultimately led to its demise. In order to fix this decline of the suburbs, I suggest housing developers and investors begin producing affordable housing options in all neighborhoods.

The American Dream is an idea that has been a constant part of American culture and identity since the United States was first established. One thing about the American Dream that has not been consistent, however, is what it represents. For instance, the American dream during the 1940s through the 1950s is vastly different from today’s American Dream. Traditionally when you hear “the American Dream” the first images that often pop into the mind of many Americans living today is an idyllic view of a picturesque house surrounded by a white-picket fence with a happy nuclear family playing on the front lawn.  In the 40s and 50s, this was precisely what American Dream was: homeownership. It became fundamental for Americans to have a place they could call their own, which additionally symbolized upward mobility. The American Dream in today’s society has been characterized as having the “’Freedom of choice in how to live’…having a good family life…and retiring comfortably.”[1] This means that in order to acquire the American Dream, it no longer requires owning a quaint house in the suburbs.

Due to extreme economic turmoil from the Great Depression in America from 1929 to 1941, many Americans were forced to evolve from the materialistic lives that they were accustomed to throughout the Roaring Twenties. The Great Depression had a monumental influence on the American Dream post-World War II, due to the limited amount of housing that was available across the country and yet Americans wanted a place all to their own more than ever. Post-World War II, Americans used their new economic freedom to their advantage by buying a home. “One of the first necessities sought after by Americans was housing. By late 1945 and early 1946 the housing crisis was acute. Veterans and other Americans demobilized from wartime production desired housing but were met with a lack of supply.”[2] William Levitt recognized this problem early on and decided to capitalize on the crisis by offering returning World War II veterans and their families affordable housing on Long Island, in a community he would name Levittown.

Thanks to the G.I. Bill, veterans (specifically white-middle class) had access to mortgages, while the Federal Highway Act of 1956 allowed for new highways to be built, making commuting to and from the city easier.[3] These laws being passed made it even more reasonable for white, middle-class veterans to live in the suburbs, giving them the opportunity to have their own piece of the American Dream. While aspiring to obtain your own space is unquestionably a strong reason for wanting a home, it is not the only one. Owning a home also signifies a symbol of self; “many people brought houses to bolster their image of self-both as an individual and as a person in a certain status position in society.”[4] Americans use both the interior and exterior spaces of their homes as expressive extensions of one’s self and has also been used to convey messages about how people view and feel about themselves to the outside world, as well as those who they would permit into their homes. Interior decoration and well-preserved exteriors are notable indications to the status of Americans – theses spaces are both conscious and unconscious expressions of social identity or the identity chosen to be displayed to society.

The suburbs have constantly exhibited a sense of mass conformity over the course of their existence; houses tend to be uniform in appearance and so were the people who lived there. Everyone desired to have the reputation of being a well put together, happy, and stable nuclear family accompanied by good morals or, otherwise known as, the perfect family. This, in turn, produces “the classic image of American Suburbia as a homogeneous place of conventionality”[5] The suburbs unequivocally exemplified an era of domesticity, as women were confined solely to the home, fulfilling the conventional housewife role. Women were regularly forced into these roles, as the domestic sphere was where women belonged, according to men, resulting in them restricting women from the work force and, in turn, the public sphere. Women were now exclusively confined to the home; dissatisfied with their lives on the inside, but were forced to continually put on a façade of contentment throughout their lives. With few opportunities available to them in the suburbs, women felt isolated from outside activities and viewed the home as “a potential source of repression.”[6] Being so isolated, they became dependent on the resources of their families and a majority felt that they “lacked stimulation” and felt their personalities suffered as a result. Before the suburbs, many of these women lived in the cities. Once they moved the suburbs, a third of them reported that they missed “their old patterns of socializing”[7] and felt lonely. Suburban women had an overall, less positive view of the suburbs than their male companions, as the men viewed it as a place ideal for raising children and relaxing after spending the day in the hustling city. Women generally agreed that they too thought of the suburbs as being a respectable place to raise children. However, women also viewed it as an oppressive place that had no opportunities available to them and no stimulation, leading to feelings of stagnation and depression among suburban women. Now, as well as then, the majority of women have no desire to live in such a place of oppression, as they value the ability to have and pursue their own personal goals and pleasures outside of the private sphere. Modern women view the suburbs as a place of stagnation for personal growth that has not offered an equal amount of opportunities and experiences like urban areas have offered. Nor do they view the suburbs as being the only good place to raise children, as many view the city as being a place where their children can encounter vast amounts of diversity with accompanied opportunities and experiences that can not be replicated in the suburban life.

The home as an entity was just not important to the nuclear family because it served as a private and tranquil switch from the bustling city life for the husband and was perceived as the perfect location to raise children, but also because it represented one’s status. Houses in Levittown were mass-produced, making them all looking exactly the same. The original house of Levittown called the “Cape Code style” and allowed for families to renovate and add additions to their houses, as they had no garage or basement, and an unfinished second floor. Residents began to reshape their houses with renovations to demonstrate their wealth, as well as their personalities. These continuing renovations done by homeowners throughout the beginning stages of the suburbs led to a transformation of the suburbs, as they transitioned from a housing development for low-income workers to a middle-class community. Residents had reshaped their environment and raised it to a “new socioeconomic level”[8], and elevated their community’s standards for innovation and growth to a new level, prompting for residents to refurbish and upgrade their houses even more. Renovations boosted individuals’ social status and also their home’s value and the surrounding ones as well, resulting in it becoming an area limited to only certain types and classes of people. In fact, William Levitt built Levittown to keep minority groups, specifically African Americans, out of Levittown and excluded them from buying homes in Levittown even after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.[9] The suburbs were extremely segregated and had no desire to acquire more diversity within their communities, as some thought of it a threat to their security and safety because they often correlated people of color with crime, continuing the appalling stereotype about minority groups. Still today, only 1% of Levittown’s population consists of African Americans, even though it is surrounded by an urban region with a large population of African Americans[10]. By marking the suburban communities as a space made for innovation and improvement for houses and by having residents revamp their houses, it increased costs and value of the houses went up drastically. The average price of a house in Levittown in the 1950s was around $7,000 and in 2008 the average cost of a house in Levittown sold for no less than $350,000[11]. The original Cape Cod houses of Levittown have been radically transformed into houses that are no longer accessible or affordable to lower and middle-class citizens and minorities.

In the past decade, there has been a surge to live in the city rather than the suburbs; “’these days the market is driven much more by people who are either choosing to live in the city or in the near-in suburbs’”.[12] This flocking to the cities has been mainly consistent of white Millennials who are more interested in the growing work opportunities and amenities that the cities offer; such as diversity, great public spaces, and endless activities and attractions scattered throughout the city. The attractiveness of the city doesn’t only appeal to millennials, but also many white, wealthy elites as well, for the same reasons. This gentrification of urban centers over the past decade has been the one of the main reasons in explaining why there have been significant increases in rent for apartments. In 2016, the average rent in Manhattan ranged from $2,500 monthly to $30,000 monthly[13] developers are continuing to construct these lavish and expensive apartments even though there is a high demand for affordable apartments. These ever-rising prices of apartments have also made the city a place that only the wealthy or upper-middle class can afford. Therefore, these economic trends have been pushing out those who cannot afford living in city to homelessness or inner-ring suburbs.

Minority groups often have no other option than to relocate to inner-ring suburbs because these communities are not as attractive, or clean, or sought-after, or as high quality as outer-ring suburbs. Inner-ring suburbs are the older suburbs usually constructed in the 50s and 60s, are located near the central city, and no longer entice new inhabitants or developers because of its bleak out-of-date model and location.[14] Contrasted with the outer-ring suburbs, which are characteristically inhabited by white wealthy families looking to distance themselves from the core of the dirty and harsh city environment to a place with healthy, safe, clean living conditions, while also being perceived as morally sound and exclusive. This constrains the options of living spaces for lower-income and minority families because they cannot afford to nor are they “allowed” to live in the outer-ring suburbs due to rising housing costs, which pushes them to the only space available, the inner-ring suburbs. The suburbanization of minorities began to disrupt previously all-white suburbs, resulting in African Americans being condemned to the suburbs while also being sequentially detached from white suburbs. Pushing African Americans into inner-ring suburbs created an environment where below average income levels, higher-levels of poverty, and higher crime rates festered compared to predominantly white suburbs. In 2000, the median household income of inner-ring suburbs was twenty-five percent below the median income of other suburban neighborhoods.[15] The inner-ring suburbs have been characterized as being “the new metropolitan calamities of the United States, areas of ethnic, racial and income segregation where the suburban dream has largely vanished.”[16] Being in poverty, entities such as having food, water, and shelter are prioritized over items like cars and high-quality living conditions; meaning that for many of these of low-income or poverty-stricken families to have a shelter, they frequently must opt for low-quality housing, with sub-par conditions as these are the only communities where they can afford to buy a home. Houses new and especially old can require extensive maintenance work as they deteriorate over time, thus requiring renovations. However, the cost of renovation has soared; for instance, the average cost for replacing a roof is now $6,838; kitchen renovations can range from $4,500 to $49,000[17]; new siding runs on average $14,000; and replacing one window can cost up $100 not including installment fees. The cost of repairing basic amenities of one’s home comes at a hefty price and many residents in inner-ring suburbs cannot afford to replace them, unlike upper-middle class individuals who have the funds to pay for such maintenance. Police have had a long a history of targeting neighborhoods such as these, whose inhabitants mainly consist of poor, people of color by arresting them for minor crimes in an effort to reduce more serious crimes. This over-aggressive policing tactic is known as “broken window policing” because police thought broken windows represented disorder and, if left unattended, assumed that the residents did not care enough to replace it and would eventually lead to more chaos and crime in the neighborhood. This tactic leads to the crime rates in these neighborhoods to soar. In past decades, it has been acknowledged that crime rates in the suburbs are rising. Between 2003 and 2008, Atlanta’s violent crime rate in the suburbs increased by twenty-three percent.[18] This rise of crime in the suburbs is not solely caused by the actual crime being committed by residents, but also by over-policing by law enforcement – giving a rise in dangerous and toxic cycles of policing of minorities.

The suburbs once presented itself as a sublime, unadulterated, and optimal location for the nuclear family to raise children in that allowed for numerous working-class Americans to attain the American Dream of owning a house. As time has passed, many things have changed, including the American Dream, as it no longer exclusively represents the vision of owning a house. Another dynamic that has change along with the American Dream is the suburb. While the suburbs were initially seen superficially as good, yet there were and continue to be many problems that accompany it, which ultimately led to the decline of the suburb we see today. Many Millennials have no interest in living in the suburbs and seek to vanish from them as quickly as possible. Many view them as an oppressive place that repressed women for decades and enforced gender-stereotypes for decades to come. While also being desolate and expensive, the suburbs present no opportunities for Millennials to grow as individuals or professionally, giving rise to a surge of white millennials and wealthy elites flocking to cities. This increase of groups such as these displace poor minority groups as rents continue to rise, due to the influx of wealth from the once affluent suburban communities. Since these groups often cannot come up with the funds to continue their city lives, they must find housing elsewhere. These disenfranchised groups are now excluded from the rich, white, wealthy outer-ring suburbs because it too requires vast amounts of money to live in the better neighborhoods of suburban communities, but because it requires a car, something poor minority groups often cannot afford. Therefore, they are pushed into the inner-ring suburbs, full of cheap, low quality housing and living conditions. Police target these minority neighborhoods, as they assume that disorder will ensue due to unruly exterior conditions of the homes that these residences cannot afford to fix. Thus, this leads to a rise in crime rates as police are increasingly over-policing these areas, making it an undesirable place to live and making livelihoods fall further into decline. In order to restore the suburbs to stability, and prevent this from happening to other suburbs, I suggest major action be done on affordable housing projects throughout America. By creating more average quality houses and apartments that are affordable for minorities, lower-class and poverty-stricken individuals can have access to every neighborhood. This not only aids in individuals obtaining their own homes, but potentially help lower crime and poverty rates around America and assist in declining communities to get back on their feet again.


[1] Smith

[2] Lesh, 3

[3] Weingroff, 10

[4] Cooper, 169

[5] Short et al. 644

[6] Imrie, 156

[7] Saegert, S105

[8] Kelly, 28

[9] Kushner, xiv

[10] Rothstein, 27

[11] Hanlon, 4

[12] Frizell

[13] Kaysen, RE1

[14] Hanlon, 7

[15] Hanlon, 95

[16] Hanlon, 109

[17] Home Advisor

[18] McWhirter and Fields


Cooper, Clare. “The House as Symbol of the Self.” In The People, Place, and Space Reader, First., 1–446. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.

Hanlon, Bernadette. 2010. “Once the American Dream.” In Once the American Dream: Inner-Ring Suburbs of the Metropolitan United States, 1–11. Temple University Press.

Home Advisor. “How Much Does It Cost To Remodel Multiple Rooms?” ..Com. Home Advisor, n.d.

Frizell, Sam. “The New American Dream Is Living in a City, Not Owning a House in the Suburbs.” ,Com. TIME Magazine, April 25, 2014.

Imrie, Rob. “Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of the Home.” In The People, Place, and Space Reader, first:1–446. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.

Kaysen, Ronda. “2017: Year of the Renter.” New York Times. January 6, 2017, sec. 360 View.

Kelly, Barbara M.. 1993. “Little Boxes, Big Ideas.” Design Quarterly 158: 26–31.

Kushner, David. 2009. Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb. New York, NY: Walker & Company.,+One+Tycoon,+and+the+Fight+for+Civil+Rights+in+America%E2%80%99s+Legendary+Suburb.+&ots=4BwPcSVSHO&sig=ZjjJp7DZ–faMHRzS4BdFDt1bpU#v=onepage&q=levittown&f=false.

McWhirter, Cameron, and Gary Fields. “Crime Migrates to Suburbs.” The Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2012.

Rothstein, Richard. 2015. “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods: A Constitutional Insult.” Economic Policy Institute, Race and Soical Problems, 7 (1): 21–30.

Short, John Rennie, Bernadette Hanlon, and Thomas J. Vicino. “The Decline of Inner Suburbs: The New Suburban Gothic in the United States.” Geography Compass 1, no. 3 (2007): 641–56.

Smith, Samantha. “Most Think the ‘American Dream’ Is within Reach for Them.” ..Ord. Pew Research Center, October 31, 2017.