Seeking Sustainable Urban Renewal: an anthropological study of neighborhood change
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Urban restructuring in Cincinnati has primarily been enacted as corporate-led gentrification, widening socio-economic disparities and displacing lower-income populations. One Cincinnati community is challenging this process by asking, ‘how can we practice community-based urban renewal?’ The Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage (ERUEV) is a grassroots organization focused on integrating household and community practices of environmental sustainability into their urban neighborhood. Their goal is to engage and educate the neighborhood about sustainability issues in innovative ways. In summer 2018, I began a collaborative ethnographic project designed to understand how the ERUEV organizes and executes sustainable projects, and how their efforts work toward structural change in the neighborhood. I have conducted participant observation with ERUEV committees responsible for community engagement and public relations. I have also been actively involved in their recent project focused on redeveloping a vacant property into a space that might facilitate neighborhood social relations through urban gardening, local music, and their community-sustained agriculture program. With this project, the community aims to use sustainable practices as a response to issues of structural violence, and ideally improve community relations between ERUEV and the surrounding neighborhood. I aim to understand ERUEV’s decision-making around this project, this paper will integrate frameworks from urban, applied, and organizational anthropology to analyze the tensions and mutuality that arise from the community’s commitment to consensus-based decision structures.
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