Chicago goes global: redevelopment, culture, and fear

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Chicago's remarkably flexible growth machine, like their brethren across Rust Belt America, continues to aggressively press forward to build an internationally competitive city. This paper deepens our understanding of Chicago's recently changed growth machine. It focuses on its current redevelopment narrative as it is used on the South Side and chronicles two new features about it: its revamped use of fear and its re-fashioned notion of culture. I flesh out these two elements as they circulate through a now dominant redevelopment program: historic preservation. I chronicle three points in this paper. First, programs like historic preservation, like so many current city programs, have now fully shifted to being a neoliberal economic development tool to promote the “go-global Chicago” project. Second, two dominant fears recently nuanced anchor the narrative: fear of a city-destroying globalization and fear of city-subverting poor African-Americans. Third, a revamped notion of culture is used that helps provide resonance and dark appeal to the two offered fears. The culture notion is put into play as two dominant things, as the idealized and timeless glue that unifies Chicago's mainstream and as problematic values and meanings carried by black bodies which renders them civic tainting “ocular trash”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-269
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015


  • Chicago
  • Growth machine
  • fear
  • historic preservation
  • neoliberal governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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