A Nation Of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, And Democracy In Postwar America by Benjamin Looker

A Nation Of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, And Democracy In Postwar America

byBenjamin Looker

Paperback | October 22, 2015

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Despite the pundits who have written its epitaph and the latter-day refugees who have fled its confines for the half-acre suburban estate, the city neighborhood has endured as an idea central to American culture. In A Nation of Neighborhoods, Benjamin Looker presents us with the city neighborhood as both an endless problem and a possibility.

Looker investigates the cultural, social, and political complexities of the idea of “neighborhood” in postwar America and how Americans grappled with vast changes in their urban spaces from World War II to the Reagan era. In the face of urban decline, competing visions of the city neighborhood’s significance and purpose became proxies for broader debates over the meaning and limits of American democracy. By studying the way these contests unfolded across a startling variety of genres—Broadway shows, radio plays, urban ethnographies, real estate documents, and even children’s programming—Looker shows that the neighborhood ideal has functioned as a central symbolic site for advancing and debating theories about American national identity and democratic practice.

About The Author

Benjamin Looker teaches in the American Studies Department at Saint Louis University. He is the author of “Point from Which Creation Begins”: The Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis.

Details & Specs

Title:A Nation Of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, And Democracy In Postwar AmericaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:October 22, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629031X

ISBN - 13:9780226290317

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Table of Contents


PART I Neighborhood Visions from Popular Front to Populist Memory

1 Microcosms of Democracy: Depicting the City Neighborhood in Wartime America
2 Communities under Glass: The Neighborhood Unit Plan and Postwar Privatization
3 The Specter of Blight: The Neighborhood under Siege
4 Routes of Escape: Cold War Individualism and Community Ties

PART II The Urban Crisis and the Meanings of City Community

5 A Place Apart: The “New Ghetto” and the “Old Neighborhood”
6 Brilliant Corners: Representing the Inner City, from Outside and from Within
7 Peaceable Kingdoms: The Great Society Neighborhood in Stories for Children

PART III Defining Urban Pluralism in the Age of the Neighborhoods Movement

8 Elementary Republics and Little Platoons: The Neighborhood Self- Government Movement
9 “A Theology of Neighborhood”: Post–Vatican II Catholicism, Ethnic Revival, and City Space
10 Neighborhood Feminisms: Refi guring Gender in the Urban Village
11 Local Spaces and White House Races: Urban Communities and Presidential Politics


Editorial Reviews

“A Nation of Neighborhoods deserves wide readership among historians of education, especially those interested in ‘bridging the gap’ between the fields of educational history and (sub)urban history. . . . A compelling portrait of the urban neighborhood as the preeminent site and symbol for articulating and contesting liberal visions of American citizenship, historical memory, and democratic practice. . . . Such a history of contestation is needed in order to complicate the all-too-common rise-and-fall narratives of twentieth-century urban neighborhood institutions.”