New South, ‘New Athens?’ angels, mobility and myths

Authors: Jason Luger*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Cultural Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: the new south, lefebvre, urban space, mobility, politics, policy, culture
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper critically deconstructs the notion of the ‘New South’ using the case of North Carolina's Piedmont, a prototypical 'New South' region. Using the framework of Henri Lefebvre’s ‘right to the city’, specifically the three themes of ‘mobility’, ‘access’ and ‘oeuvre’ (the art of city-making), the paper argues that the ‘New South’ is not the utopian 'New Athens' of Lefebvrian imagination, but rather, is a neo-liberal repackaging of entrenched race, class and geo-spatial segregation. The business-friendly repositioning of former textile and tobacco cities, combined with a sprawling urban form with decentralized employment opportunities, along with disinvestment and re-segregation in public education – have all contributed towards the scattering and division of a coherent working class.This story is brought to light through the examples of the 'Angels in America' controversy in Charlotte ('oevre'), the sprawling and socio-economically segregated urban growth patterns that have resulted in the nation's lowest social mobility ('mobility'), and the discriminatory 'Bathroom Bill' (House Bill 2) - ('access'). The paper concludes by suggesting that lack of access, lack of participation and exclusion from centrality mean that marginalized groups (including the LGBTQ, African American and white working-class and poor communities) remain dis-aggregated and rather than unified, and face difficulty realizing Lefebvre’s conditions of ‘New Athens’, the ‘impossible’ utopian city.

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