Reconsidering Neo-Bohemia: Persistence, Politics, and Moving Past an Ecological Model of Neighborhood Reputation

Authors: Jeffrey Parker*, University of Chicago
Topics: Urban Geography, United States, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Gentrification, Reputation, Neighborhoods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Lloyd’s Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (2006) makes a compelling argument that a driving force for the development of Wicker Park as a hip neighborhood in the 1990s was the elective affinity (Weber 1905) between the bohemian ethos of the artists who lived there and the demands of a post-Fordist labor economy. The fact that Wicker Park has now largely emptied out of artists while maintaining a reputation for being a hip neighborhood naturally brings up an important question: if it is not the artists who live there fitting seamlessly into a post-Fordist economy that is driving Wicker Park’s continued hipness, then what is it? Heeding Burawoy’s (2003) call for ethnographic revisits, this paper explores Wicker Park in the decades after Lloyd was there. Based on interviews conducted among merchants in the neighborhood, this paper argues that the idea that Wicker Park is a hip place is maintained by reputational custodians who actively seek to promote and maintain Wicker Park’s reputational hipness. Moreover, these reputational custodians represent a blind spot in Lloyd’s analysis of the rise of Wicker Park as a hip neighborhood in the first place. Neither artists living out a bohemian ethos nor the impersonal forces of global capitalism demanding higher and higher returns, merchants pursuing individual and group interests and making consequential decisions on the ground are crucial to understanding how Wicker Park became a hip neighborhood in the first place.

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