Authoring a city : a rhetorical exploration of spatial practices and gentrification in San Francisco

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The rhetoric of gentrification is problematically rooted in a perceived "us" versus "them" divide. Those writing and talking about the process of gentrification perpetuate the belief in easily identifiable categories pitting "authentic" long-term residents against elite newcomers. Gentrification inherently promotes the homogenization and commodification of a culturally diverse urban space. However, the insistence of portraying such a transformation in oversimplified oppositions ignores the multiplicity of experiences involved. In this thesis, I examine narratives of San Francisco that both shape and contest the reductive discourse currently mapped onto the gentrification process. I argue for a collaborative understanding of authorship, of both texts and the city-as-text, to demonstrate how identities, boundaries, and binaries that may seem clear cut and uncontested are, in actuality, fluid and changing. Narratives of San Francisco cannot be studied for truth or falsity of experience, but can instead provide insight into the cultural construction of experience. A relational view of authorship and place-based identity formation renders sites of contention visible while creating a more in-depth approach for discussing the complex social process of gentrification.




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