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Seeing Cities Change: Local Culture and Class (Ashgate 2012)

Published: Sunday, 26 May 2013
By: Jerome Krase

Informal Township, Capetown, South Africa, 2000

In this book I bring together visual work on urban communities that I had been doing long before I had even heard of Visual Sociology, as well as after my encounters with the International Visual Sociology Association. As John Grady might have phrased it -- almost 50 years of doing urban sociology visually.

  • Cities have always been dynamic social environments for visual and otherwise symbolic competition between the groups who live and work within them. In contemporary urban areas, all sorts of diversity are simultaneously increased and concentrated, chief amongst them in recent years being the ethnic and racial transformation produced by migration and the gentrification of once socially marginal areas of the city.

    Seeing Cities Change demonstrates the utility of a visual approach and the study of ordinary streetscapes to document and analyse how the built environment reflects the changing cultural and class identities of neighborhood residents. Discussing the manner in which these changes relate to issues of local and national identities and multiculturalism, it presents studies of various cities on both sides of the Atlantic to show how global forces and the competition between urban residents in 'contested terrains' is changing the faces of cities around the globe.

    Blending together a variety of sources from scholarly and mass media, this engaging volume focuses on the importance of 'seeing' and, in its consideration of questions of migration, ethnicity, diversity, community, identity, class and culture, will appeal to sociologists, anthropologists and geographers with interests in visual methods and urban spaces.

  • Contents: Introduction; Seeing diversity in New York City; Seeing Little Italy change; Chinatown: a visual approach to ethnic spectacles; Visualizing American cities; Polish and Italian landscapes; Seeing ethnic succession in Big Italy; Gentrification in Poland and Polonia; Seeing community in a multicultural society; Conclusion; References; Index.

  • About the Author: Jerome Krase is Murray Koppelman Professor and Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York, and author of Self and Community in the City, co-author of Ethnicity and Machine Politics, and co-editor of Race and Ethnicity in New York City, The Melting Pot and Beyond, and Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World.

  • Reviews: '… Recommended. All levels/libraries.'

    'Although the particularities of each ethnic type and landscape are discussed, the structural inter-connections that mark the immigrant experience across temporal, socio-spatial, and, most interestingly, international contexts are also identified and impressively interwoven into the analysis. In each of these cases, while drawing off an incredible wealth of original research and existing literature, the role of space is isolated as a central analytic object for the purpose of illustrating the strengths (as well as limitations) that visual approaches can bring to the field of urban studies in particular and the social sciences in general… the book will be of interest not only to cultural geographers but human geographers in general (the urban focus will also be of particular interest to urban geographers). It is also recommended to anyone interested in critical social theory, race and ethnicity, and immigration studies… In the end, the case for the visual is convincing, and makes the reader ponder why visual methods have yet to be taken seriously in the social sciences.'
    Journal of Cultural Geography

    'Krase brilliantly demonstrates throughout the book that ‘seeing is the only way of knowing’ (p. 249). It is clear from this book that the life’s work of a scholar, through its many versions and revisions spanning some forty years, culminates here. Seeing Cities Change is a major contribution to urban and visual studies. It is a must read for urban social scientists or anyone interested in cities and a visual approach to studying them.'

    'Seeing Cities Change demonstrates the utility of a visual approach and the study of ordinary streetscapes to document and analyse how the built environment reflects the changing cultural and class identities of neighbourhood residents… this book raises the most important question for urban studies on how best to ‘see’ cities change through a scholarly lens… Jerome Krase is an eminent visual sociologist who has for decades photographed the ways that cities in North America have changed through immigrant life and practices. Seeing Cities Change is one of his more important publications which brings together his collection of photographs into a study of urban transformation through photo-documentation… As a book that makes a methodological and conceptual contribution, it will be useful to a range of students and scholars from sociology, geography, urban studies as well as architecture and urban planning… raises the most important question for urban studies - is it possible to ‘see’ cities change through a scholarly and critical lens that goes beyond the tourist gaze? Krase makes a bold attempt at showing us how. In doing so, he joins other urban scholars who are working with critical visual and participatory methodologies to highlight the material geographies of migrant home-making in western cities.'
    LSE Review of Books

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