Racing the creative class: Diversity, racialized discourses of work, and colorblind redevelopment

Authors: Yui Hashimoto*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Economic development, race, creative class, colorblindness, work
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Majestic Ballroom, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I examine a colorblind redevelopment strategy informed by Richard Florida’s creative class thesis to illustrate how it relies upon and reproduces historical socio-spatial patterns of racial inequality. Specifically, I explore the case of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a so-called rust belt city attempting to revitalize after decades of white flight, deindustrialization, and intra-metropolitan segregation. Through an analysis of Milwaukee’s redevelopment plans, two years of participant observation, and interviews with government officials, local business elite, and non-profit professionals, I demonstrate how colorblind redevelopment nonetheless constitutes a racial project even as it nominally recognizes racial difference and embraces diversity. My analysis points to the centrality of race in colorblind redevelopment strategies like the creative class. Moreover, through Jodi Melamed’s (2011) theorizing of neoliberal multiculturalism, I contribute to the urban and feminist geographic scholarship on redevelopment by examining contemporary articulations of race that cross-cut phenotype with economic value and depoliticize structural racism into diversity and culture.

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