Confronting the Gentrification Frontier: Blues Clubs and Political Resistance on Chicago’s South Side.

Authors: David Wilson*, University Of Illinois
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: : blues clubs, Chicago, ethnography, gentrification frontier.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper reports on a three year ethnography of a South Side Chicago blues club to determine the intensity and kinds of political resistance to a growing club commodification. The club, Beebe’s, has recently experienced an increased commodifying of its physical and social milieus as Chicago’s gentrification frontier has moved across the South Side. The results reveal a club rife with contestation that embeds in a “leisure as resistance social formation.” This formation, the form of a sly politics designed to impose pressure to define the club social character in one way, is enacted especially by two dominant club users, long-term regulars and musicians. A robust, liminal formation works through an array of techniques: coding and exhibiting bodies, performing social engagements, and infusing strategic meanings in language. The ongoing goal is to produce understandings rooted in desires to rehabilitate assaulted identities, cleanse highly personal economic and social haunts, replenish subaltern bases of knowledge, and build an enriching, imaginative utopian space. The political movement’s degree of success is still to be determined.

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