When Empowerment Marginalizes: Place Branding and the Politics of Neighborhood Organizations

Authors: Brady Collins*, Cal Poly Pomona
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Development
Keywords: place branding, community development, neighborhood politics, public administration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years, place branding has emerged as both an interdisciplinary academic field as well as an economic development strategy employed by local, regional, national, and even international organizations. Place branding is generally considered to be a variety of practices aimed at shaping the public’s perception of a particular geography, such as cities, regions, or communities, by forging emotional and psychological bonds with a place. However, despite the fact that some public agencies spend millions of dollars on such strategies, there is severe conceptual clarity with regards to what activities constitute branding, what actors are engaging in branding, for whom the brand is created and to what ends. This study seeks to elucidate these issues by focusing on how municipal policies for registering or designating neighborhood organizations encourage or discourage residents from engaging in practices associated with place branding. Through interviews and archival research, this paper analyzes how and why 35 US municipal governments define and create neighborhoods. In doing so, I demonstrate how formal and informal government processes influence neighborhood change, and how the conflation of “neighborhood” and “neighborhood organization” exacerbates power dynamics between community stakeholders. I conclude with recommendations for how city governments can engage residents and local associations without inflaming neighborhood politics.

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