Papers 5: Renewing Places
Rich narratives and insights about places and activities are commonplace in ethnographic research: perhaps even the bread and butter of our field. We have studied TV watching in homes in Cairo, body products in bathrooms of Mumbai, and open office spaces in Stockholm, to name just a few. Often, we describe these locations as a way of giving richer context to our findings. For the most part, however, these sites have been incidental. They were where we happened to be when we were studying something else. This session takes seriously place as the object of study. Further, the session turns our attention to a particular kind of place: the city. As evidenced by research, investment and product development by companies like IBM, Cisco and Siemens, cities are vibrant business opportunity spaces, yet they are all too often lumped together in an undifferentiated heap: the city. Each of the authors provides beautiful, full descriptions of particular urban places: Detroit, Kesennuma, and Savannah. They do so, not just as the context, but as a way of teasing out the particular social, cultural and economic processes of how placeness itself emerges. Putting place at the center, rather than the margins of study, opens new pathways to understanding key players and roles in Detroit’s economic revitalization process, Kesennuma’s community and economic re-development after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the importance of Savannah’s music scene for the city’s identity and growth. These papers represent a “pioneering,” staking out places as such, and cities in particular, as objects of study for the EPIC community.
Between 20th and 21st century, what is considered innovations have changed from technologically-centered to human-centered. Taking Japan's visions and potential recovery strategy as an example, we describe how Japan is to renew oneself and propose the power of 'scaling-out', where ethnography would play a central role in its success.
Throughout history, music has been central to the social fabric of communities, yet it is often perceived as an extraneous element in a city. “Scene and Unscene” is an ethnographic study of the local music scene in Savannah, Georgia. Interviews with key players and participant observation in local music events and venues, coupled with personal experience as a member of a Savannah-based band, provide an insider perspective on the local music scene—its current state and the collective vision for its desired future. The paper demonstrates the key roles a music scene plays in place-making, community building, and city life.
“Detroit is a Blank Slate.” Metaphors in the Journalistic Discourse of Art and Entrepreneurship in the City of Detroit
This paper is an investigation of metaphoric language in the contemporary discourse of Detroit’s “renewal.” News articles from local and national news sources from 2009-2011 provide evidence of critical and provocative metaphoric constructions found in the gentrification discourse of Detroit. As harbingers of gentrification, the discourse communities of artists and business entrepreneurs are the focus of this review. The author argues that metaphoric language in journalism must be critically evaluated and challenged to help ensure sustainable, equitable, and historically sensitive “renewal” of the city of Detroit and similar inner-city urban communities experiencing gentrification.