From the Shining City to New Jack City: Geographies of 1980s America II

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, Historical Geography Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (MDT)
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Patrick Vitale, Clayton Rosati
Chairs: Patrick Vitale


In his January 1989 farewell address, Ronald Reagan returned once more to John Winthrop’s image of the United States as a shining city on a hill. Reagan described how he had achieved his goal to restore America. And yet the “city streets” Reagan said he would “walk off into” hardly matched the departing President's lofty language. Poverty and homelessness rose dramatically in the 1980s, fueled by Reagan’s austerity politics. Meanwhile, the President spun tales of “welfare queens,” the AIDS crisis was met with overwhelming silence, and a supply of crack cocaine with shadowy Cold War ties ravaged neighborhoods. Many policies and landscapes of the 80s linger as the contemporary terrain on, through, and against which we form new geographical projects.

The narratives and material environments of the 1980s have become part of and are being re-written in our collective memory (or amnesia), as well as set off from (and yet frequently compared to) each new political moment. As such, they are ripe for examination from geographers and historical scholars. As with earlier episodes of urban suffering, many of the most insightful accounts of the era can be found in cultural movements rooted firmly, if diversely, in city spaces, from the explosive allusions and extravagant aspirations of hip-hop to the troubled literary and cinematic satires of life on Wall Street. We seek papers that illuminate culture, economy, and everyday life in 1980s America, and which seek to ground the often-bewildering trends of the decade in geographic terrain. We also welcome papers that explore the relations and parallels between Reagan and Trump’s America.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Natalie Hopkinson*, Howard University, Fluorescent Flags: Black Power, Publicity and American Counternarratives in Go-Go Street Posters of the 1980s 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Clayton Rosati*, Bowling Green State University, Wild Style: Hip-hop, Cable TV, and the Urban Antinomies of the Interactive Media of the 1980s 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Brian Tochterman*, Northland College, The Urban Fortress on Film: Crime, Violence, and Securing the City in the 1980s and 1990s 20 10:35 AM
Discussant Kafui Attoh CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies 20 10:55 AM

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