Today Southern Spaces published Edward A. Hatfield's essay "A Well-Tied Knot: Atlanta's Mobility Crisis and the 2012 T-SPLOST Debate," which surveys the challenges of transportation planning in the Atlanta metro region by unraveling the complex history of the contentious T-SPLOST (Transportation Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) initiative that was defeated in a 2012 referendum.
"A Well-Tied Knot" joins Southern Spaces' growing collection of interdisciplinary, multimedia scholarship on the Atlanta metro region—a collection we have titled "Changing Atlanta." Readers interested in such work might also be interested in the new Atlanta Studies Network, which "connects scholars, activists and residents with one another around a shared interest in Atlanta."
If Hatfield's essay on the T-SPLOST referendum inspires you to join this debate, please consider leaving a comment by using the form below.
Atlanta's T-SPLOST Referendum and Atlanta Studies»
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- In Atlanta, two historic African American churches potentially stand in the way of plans to build a new, billion-dollar football stadium for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. The first, Friendship Baptist Church, was founded before the end of the Civil War and has stood at its current location since 1880. Spelman and Morehouse Colleges were founded in First Baptist. Also, Maynard H. Jackson, Sr., the father of Atlanta's first black mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., was the church's head pastor until his death in 1953. The other church, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, has occupied its current space since 1955, having already moved several times due to development in the area. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and other local business leaders are in negotiations with the churches over their properties and promise significant investments in the neighborhood in which the churches are located if they agree to relocation.
- On March 29, Exxon-Mobil's sixty-five-year-old Pegasus pipeline burst in Mayflower, Arkansas. The town, which lies twenty-five miles northwest of Little Rock, was inundated with an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil from Canadian tar sands as a result of the spill. The aging pipeline runs from Illinois to Texas and its rupture forced the evacuation of twenty-two homes in Mayflower. Area residents and environmentalists are concerned that neither Exxon-Mobil nor the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (the government entity overseeing the cleanup) are prepared to deal with a spill of this type of oil of this magnitude. Compared with those associated with ordinary oil drilling, the processes required to extract, process, refine, and clean up tar sands oil are "complex, energy-intensive, and expensive." While this spill is unusually large and has received significant media attention, it is but one of the hundreds of "significant incidents" involving oil pipeline spills reported to the US Department of Transportation each year.
- On April 17, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded killing 14 people, injuring hundreds more, and damaging or destroying buildings within a half-mile radius of the blast. The cause of the blast is still unknown. The plant, which is owned by Adair Inc.'s West Fertilizer Company, produced anhydrous ammonia (a liquid crop nutrient) and stored upwards of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, an extremely volitile solid fertilizer which was used in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Despite the presence of these dangerous and explosive chemicals, the plant has not been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, and the company filed a 2011 report with the Environmental Protection Agency stating that there was "no" risk of fire or explosion at the plant. While Texas lawmakers suggest that increased regulation would not have prevented the blast, many labor and workplace safety groups are calling for increased regulations and more funding for OSHA enforcement.
The Bulletin—April 24, 2013»
Category 3 Gentrification: On New Orleans's Population Trends and the Hostility of Internet Commenters
|The dual attraction of New Orleans. From Katie Gillett, The Post-Grad Hipster's Guide to Inhabitable U.S. Cities, 2011.|
Since I left New Orleans for good in 2007, I hear more and more stories of twenty- and thirty-somethings of my demographic—and by my demographic, I mean hipsters with MFAs in creative writing—moving there. Apparently, this is a trend, so says Richard Campanella, a geographer with Tulane's architecture program, in "Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans." In this article, he ties this migration southward to so-called "revitalization" movements that displace generally poor and African American residents. He posits a four-phase cycle, each phase representing a different influx of people into a particular neighborhood, each phase a wave carrying with it progressively more intense collateral gentrification. According to Campanella, this is the process of New Orleans gentrification: first, gutterpunks squat in poor neighborhoods near "historic" or touristy areas; second come hipsters; third, the cultural capital accrued by young artist types attracts bourgeois bohemians; and finally, the rich arrive.
While I find this model to be convincing, it is also reductive. There's a too-neat linearity at play—one that elides both institutional forces that lure writers and artisanal bread makers into poor and working-class neighborhoods and other neighborhood life-cycles that somehow remain in a not-quite-attractive-enough limbo. For instance, even as Campanella uses the Bywater as an example of NOLA-gentrification par excellence, he ignores the relocation of New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) to a twenty-three million dollar campus in 2000, paid for by the state of Louisiana.1 Nevertheless, the streamlined process Campanella enumerates seems to be a fair representation of NOLA gentrification. It was just before Hurricane Katrina that the neighborhood around NOCCA began to be seen as a hip option—at least in my experience.
Which is to say that Campanella's analysis is compelling to me because I did live in New Orleans, knew the gutterpunks and proto-hipsters who dropped out of Tulane's English program to colonize blighted houses in the Bywater, washed dishes in their bathtub, never showering, barely wearing shoes. I still have strong familial ties to greater NOLA thanks to my wife, whose family is scattered throughout the city and its suburbs. Professor Campanella uses fleeting biographical details in his essay, adding to his geographical, statistical, and historical evidence the heavy authority of being an "insider." My question here is what role experiential knowledge has in making arguments about a space, whether we take for granted that extensive time living and working and loving and playing in a place gives us a special sort of access to some "truth," whether we can (or should) escape our emotional attachments to (or severed from) a place.
Take the comments on Campanella's essay. The earliest, posted by local writer Mark Folse, links to a blog post he wrote in 2005 prophesying the coming of a sterile, museum culture post-Katrina. Another comment, whose author notes he moved from Brooklyn to live in the Bywater after Katrina—more or less proving Campanella's schema—claims that "Bywater is more like Fort Greene and NOTHING like Williamsburg,"2 referring to Campanella's glib reference to people apparently comparing Bywater to the Brooklyn neighborhood. This commenter criticizes Campanella's characterization (using statistics) of the Bywater as taking a turn toward a white majority, using this bit of evidence: "I see whites, blacks, Vietnamese, Hispanics, and every other color on my street every day. We live in a community of many cultures, not a white gated one."
|Richard Campanella, Post-Katrina gentrification hot spots, New Orleans, 2012. From Campanella's Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, 2008.|
The most interesting comment is by a person named 12ward, who levies against Campanella charges of outsidership, ignorance of the local, poor research skills, and lack of comparative perspective. One way to say this is that Campanella's account doesn't match 12ward's own experience of New Orleans. 12ward says, "This sounds like a guy who got here yesterday and lacks even the most basic 2005–2008 city infrastructure/operation knowledge." 12ward asks, "I know you claim to live here . . . but have you actually talked to ANYONE here?" The rest of his 1,584 word comment/counter-essay contains lists of dates, events, and brief personal and speculative narratives that attempt to amass a wealth of local (and professional?) credibility with which 12ward might be able to challenge Campanella's political position and analysis of population trends. In the course of this jeremiad, we learn that 12ward has worked as a public school teacher, has been homeless, moved to New Orleans for his vegetarian wife (who loves it there!), housed FEMA workers for free in October 2005, lives Uptown, and considers himself well versed in history.
12ward's hostility3 seems to stem from two places: 1) a misreading of Campanella's "white teapot" map (a map Campanella made to illustrate the racial distribution of New Orleans and where gentrification is currently underway), and 2) a disagreement with the political dimensions of Campanella's argument. 12ward conflates the plotting of white people with the plotting of gentrification hotspots; nowhere does Campanella argue that all white New Orleans neighborhoods are gentrified, only that gentrification tends to occur near areas that are considered "historic" and are near well-to-do-neighborhoods (which are generally white in NOLA). The second root of 12ward's problem, the political implication of Campanella's reading, is more interesting.
|Infrogmation, Photo of the front steps of a Bywater home, 2008.|
Ultimately, 12ward defends the non-native New Orleans creative class, a defense that at once privileges the economic, aesthetic, and cultural tastes of the outsider, the colonizer, the upper class, while also staking a claim—through experience-knowledge and pseudo-scholarly posturing—of ownership of a place. Campanella's argument—that gentrifiers run the risk of both supplanting the working class population and turning the neighborhoods they renovate into sterile neighborhoods-qua-museums—is one that could be extremely insulting if you consider yourself a progressive, civically engaged, culturally aware transplant to NOLA. It undermines the "super native" project of nouveau-New Orleanians. It reminds them that they enjoy living in a place that was once a home of poverty, misery, and rot but is now a well-joindered house full of wifi and Restoration Hardware, that they immerse themselves in a culture and locality they did not grow up in, and that they do these things because they can afford to. On the other hand, Campanella recognizes this even as he appeals to the same logic of biographical locality: after using the birth of his son to illustrate the paucity of babies in New Orleans, he categorizes his family as "category-3 types, I suppose, sans the 'bohemian,'" referring to his four-phase cycle, to himself as a member of the bourgeois-scum class, and echoing the official designation of Hurricane Katrina, a category-3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Campanella's article becomes a call for New Orleanians of all sorts to have more children and make the city friendlier to families. On all other issues—the injection of liberal and progressive ideology into a more conservative population, the frenetic cultural adoption and reenactment by newcomers, the emphasis on making every enclave of well-educated, arts-oriented, internet-blogging, artisanal-food-making twenty-somethings more like Williamsburg—Campanella remains equivocal. He seems concerned that where once there was life there will soon be empty space bordered by lovely walls. Although it is hard to tell from 12ward's mean, reactionary, and occasionally absurdist4 diatribe, he shares a concern for wanting to preserve the place he lives in as a place of life, a concern that manifests through the use of experience-knowledge as an authority that trumps all other sources of knowledge. 12ward's comment yearns for the reader to share not just the eyes and politics of the interpreter, but his mythos and autobiography as well. This reliance on the personal experience of the writer, the appeal to insider knowledge, the individual interpretation—however well-meaning and progressive—is yet another gentrifying move, one that is both precious and consumptive, sentimental and displacing.
- 1. This is the number my wife (NOCCA '04) told me when I asked her on Gchat how much the building cost. She calculated this number by remembering how when she would lean on the walls as a student at NOCCA, teachers told her, "Don't lean on the wall: this is a twenty-three million dollar building." I call this method for conducting geographical/infrastructural analysis the "ask a friend" method.
- 2. This is surely the best evidence that Bywater is in fact Williamsburg: there's nothing more "Williamsburg" than claiming that something you do is more like Fort Greene.
- 3. 12ward's language is very hostile, using words like "fuckall," "bullshit," and "abortion." 12ward doesn't like hipsters (as he assumes Campanella's point was to attack hipsters), and claims that it isn't hipsters who move into poor neighborhoods, it's "[g]ay men and women. (by and large gay men)." When attacking Campanella's history, 12ward uses the debate tactic "What about x?"—x being a litany of decontextualized dates or event names or neighborhoods—especially in defending gentrifying neighborhoods as racially diverse or in attacking Campanella's sketch of how gentrification has occurred in the past.
- 4. 12ward muses, "as for the hipsters. do you fear them? This city has the power of temptation in the swamp. It will de-bone and devour a good number of them in so many ways. No matter WHAT you do, and every few years, (think of what I mean) this city will remind you of your safety obsession folly."
|Sarita Alami, THATCamp Feminisms South participants edit wikipedia pages for TooFEW, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, March 15, 2013.|
Southern Spaces uses Wikipedia pages as hyperlinks in our articles. While we favor scholarly open-access materials or well-curated collections of primary documents for our links, we often end up choosing Wikipedia links because of the kind of coverage and access they offer. Wikipedia entries are frequently more complete than individual pages, particularly when it comes to biographies or major historical events. They provide our readers with references to additional resources, allowing them to learn more. An additional advantage is that Wikipedia is not behind a pay-wall. Sadly, many good sources accessible through university libraries are not accessible to readers outside the academy. Finally, Wikipedia links are stable, unlike many links to open-access pages produced by individuals and organizations.
Just as our site often directs readers to Wikipedia pages, thousands of visitors a year come to our site by following links on Wikipedia pages which cite our pieces as sources. Even more significantly, people who come from Wikipedia clock enough time on our site that they seem to be reading—they don’t just click-and-leave. I hope this reflects two things: first, that at least a percentage of Wikipedia users attend to references and are invested in the topics they research, and second, that the links from Southern Spaces are helpful and add to the public knowledge base that people access through Wikipedia.
Here, though, has been the rub. We believe that our authors provide information and ideas that build new and significant knowledge, and as an open-access journal, we'd like to share that knowledge with a wide audience. So, for a long time, when we published a piece, we also went onto Wikipedia and updated articles related to the publication. Then we told that we were self-promoting and should stop; also some of our contributions were removed.
As the managing editor at Southern Spaces, I am invested in making our journal better and in promoting open-access knowledge, so I spend time thinking about Wikipedia. On my to-do list for a while has been to rethink our approach to Wikipedia and to train some of our newer editorial associates in best-practices. Then, in the middle of March, I got to be part of a really great wiki-edit-a-thon.
In my other position at Emory, as a fellow in the Digital Scholarship Commons, I worked with Moya Bailey and Sarita Alami to coordinate THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) Feminisms South. On the first day of our unconference we edited and wrote Wikipedia articles along with others across the United States, particularly at THATCamp Feminisms West at Scripps and THATCamp Feminisms East at Barnard. The initiative, called Feminists Engage Wikipedia (#tooFEW), was planned in order to help flesh out women's representation as subjects and editors on Wikipedia, which is ninety percent male-edited.
To prepare for the wiki-edit-a-thon, we talked with editors, watched a tutorial by Adrianne Wadewitz, and learned about the methods and protocols of Wikipedia editing. We learned about the importance of secondary sources and how Wikipedians interpret ideas like "neutrality." Then we spent four hours together creating and improving articles while trying to uphold the five pillars of Wikipedia. (We also discussed, at length, the ways these pillars, which can seem impartial and good, are interpreted to constrict knowledge production and replicate racist, classist, and sexist hierarchies.)
|Screen capture of Wikipedia's five pillars, April 10, 2013.|
The preparation for the event and the four hours of collective editing and discussion helped me better understand Southern Spaces' relationship to Wikipedia and has better equipped us to engage with Wikipedia.
Through Feminists Engage Wikipedia, I learned some of the reasons that Wikipedia pages can seem like good sources to us at Southern Spaces. I knew that we gravitated toward them because of stability, accessibility, and breadth. However, one of the key reasons we use them is also institutionalized in their code of conduct: they require citations. Their references and recommended resources sections aggregate online materials, provding users with a range of further reading. They also seem to be working within scholarly modes of knowledge production. (Of course, the structures of evaluation and review are different at Wikipedia, which is why we evaluate the any Wikipedia page before we link it.)
I also, and perhaps more importantly, realized that a few easy steps may have helped us present ourselves better to the Wikipedia editors as we've worked to add material to this massive, open, online encyclopedia. First, we should have created accounts. While on the one hand, this may have made it more obvious that we were overwhelmingly adding materials from Southern Spaces, it may also be have been a way to present a track record of real engagement, rather than looking like we were self-promoting. (We are pretty selective in the articles to which we contribute.) It also would have provided us a space to present who we are, as people working for a non-profit cultural-sector institution, invested in knowledge production and sharing. Second, we should have made sure to amend articles instead of simply adding to their recommended resources—in part because doing so would be a better investment for readers. Finally, we should have described our edits. All of these practices seem pretty easy. In the next couple of months, we are going to work on improving our Wikipedia contribution practices and also improving Wikipedia.
As we make changes here at the journal, I wanted to encourage our readership to think about contributing to Wikipedia. When you read an essay, engage with a project, or watch a film here or elsewhere in your research, consider adding some of that knowledge to Wikipedia articles, which you can edit anonymously or when signed-in with a user name. If we all took a few scholarly moments to share our knowledge of secondary resources1, more Wikipedia users (read: almost everybody online) will have access to high quality information and ideas. At the same time, it is important to remember and consider the structures and shortfalls of the Wikipedia model.
Southern Spaces, #TooFEW, and Wikipedia»
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- Some important William Faulkner archival material is going up for auction in New York. Considered one of the most significant literary figures in the United States in the twentieth century, much of Faulkner's work centered on the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi. Sotheby's announced on March 28, 2013 that the prolific author's Nobel Prize medal could end up being sold for over two million dollars. Other items to be auctioned include the first draft of Faulkner's Nobel speech, unpublished letters from Faulkner to his wife, Estelle, and an early unpublished story. According to Reuters, some of the items were found on the Faulkner family's Virginia property. According to an article in The New York Times, the Faulkner family hopes that a public institution will end up purchasing the material.
- A recent poll commissioned by Democrats reveals that Atlanta's political landscape is deeply divided. The poll results portray Atlanta as divided into three sections that vote very differently: the South Side, Middle Atlanta, and the North Side. South Side voters tend to be Democrats and members of racial and ethnic minorities; Middle Atlanta is split along ethnic and ideological lines; while North Side voters are more conservative and are generally white. The blog "Blogging While Blue: News & Views from a Few Spirited Georgia Democrats" declared that the poll is important because Atlanta elections are typically decided by Middle Atlanta, with its "multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ideology, and multi-partisan" makeup. This is because voters on the North and South Sides generally cancel one another out, leaving Middle Atlanta the decider in metropolitan elections.
- On March 27, 2013 Arkansas legislators overrode Democratic Governor Mike Beebe's veto of a law that will require voters to show photo identification at the polls. When the law takes effect on January 1, 2014, Arkansas will join eighteen other states that have introduced similar laws requiring voter identification at the polls this year. According to The Boston Globe, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas executive director Rick Sklar called the override a "terrible shame," stating that the group is prepared to sue in order to block the enforcement of the new law. African American legislators in Arkansas have compared the new law to the poll taxes used in southern states during the Jim Crow era.
The Bulletin—April 3, 2013»
|John Vachon, Miner's sons salvaging coal during May 1939 strike, Kempton, West Virginia. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Black-and-White Negatives Collection, LC-USF34-032709-D.|
Related Southern Spaces Links
Burns, Shirley. "Mountaintop Removal in Central Appalachia," Southern Spaces, September 30, 2009, http://southernspaces.org/2009/mountaintop-removal-central-appalachia.
Dotter, Earl. "Coalfield Generations: Health, Mining, and the Environment," Southern Spaces, July 16, 2008, http://southernspaces.org/2008/coalfield-generations-health-mining-and-environment.
Fisher, Steven and Barbara Ellen Smith. "The Place of Appalachia," Southern Spaces, January 31, 2013, http://southernspaces.org/2013/place-appalachia.
A few months ago, my husband and I moved from rural Arkansas to the great Atlanta sprawl and settled in Druid Hills, a neighborhood within walking distance of Emory University's campus. The land that constitutes the Druid Hills neighborhood was originally ceded to the Georgia government by Native Americans in 1821 and was subsequently surveyed and sold to white settlers. Today, the area has become a prominent suburban enclave near Atlanta's urban center. Celebrated landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted drew the original plans for Druid Hills in the late nineteenth century, envisioning "healthful living in a country setting, yet not far from the city."
|Sam Fowler, General plan Druid Hills historic district, US 29, Atlanta, Georgia, 1987. Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey HABS GA-2390-6.|
|Sam Fowler, 1930 City of Atlanta quadrangle map, Druid Hills historic district, US 29, Atlanta,Georgia, 1987. Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey HABS GA-2390-10.|
Reverberations of Olmsted's designs are surfacing today in Druid Hills, a suburban space that exists as a borderland, literally "outside the city", but not quite in the country. Having lived in major metropolitan areas, small towns, and rural communities, I did not initially realize that we had moved to "the suburbs." In my mind, Atlanta was one big mass of city and I had prepared myself for an urban jungle. However, while we live one mile from the Atlanta city limits, my new neighborhood hosts a variety of wildlife, including chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, owls, and hawks, not to mention large wooded areas that provide habitat for the band of coyotes whose presence is testing the limits of Olmsted's bucolic vision. Often associated with rural and western spaces, coyotes have been migrating eastward for the past century and now occupy increasingly contested territory in major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta. A 2012 New York Times article noted that "the urban coyote problem has come to Atlanta at last."
In response to increased coyote sightings and several coyote/pet skirmishes, the Druid Hills Civic Association sponsored a community meeting on January 29, 2013, to discuss the concept of coexistence. As the term implies, humans and coyotes exist in shared territories, confounding distinctions we sometimes draw between human and animal worlds. Central to the concept of coexistence is modifying the behavior of both human and animal, requiring an ongoing effort to sustain a dialogue-of-sorts with another species. In essence, coexistence asks us to take coyotes seriously as participants in a community defined by all living beings that inhabit it—plant, human, and animal-life alike.
|Janet Kessler, Coyote coexistence Atlanta, 2009. Courtesy of Janet Kessler, CoyoteYipps.com.|
The parish hall of the Church of the Epiphany was packed, as concerned neighbors, and at least one intrigued graduate student, gathered to hear three speakers representing a spectrum of professional backgrounds and perspectives. Chip Elliott, an animal trapper with over ten years of experience in the Atlanta metro area, promoted both education and trapping as important measures to maintain a critical balance between humans and coyotes. While Elliott endorsed trapping as a successful mechanism for coyote control, he acknowledged that the practice would not eliminate the population. Instead, Elliott presented trapping as a controlled human response intended to "put fear" into increasingly bold coyote communities. Dr. Chris Mowry, a biologist at Berry College, provided insight into contemporary research on urban coyote populations, prefacing his presentation with the admission that, "We don't understand the coyote in Atlanta very well." Mowry's presentation highlighted the need for more research on the urban coyote phenomenon and introduced the Metro Atlanta Coyote Project. A collaboration that Mowry spearheads with Zoo Atlanta and the Fernbank Science Center, the Metro Atlanta Coyote Project studies behaviors and activity patterns of urban coyotes in order to develop more effective management strategies of these populations. Mary Paglieri of the Little Blue Society for Human-Animal Conflict Resolution concluded the evening's presentations. As a professional tracker, Paglieri emphasized the concept of "just balance," which weighs human and animal needs as equally important parts of a larger ecosystem. Paglieri described the coyote's ability to adapt to most human behaviors and responses, requiring a sustained "management co-existence program" that responds to coyote's "natural instincts," as opposed to "aberrant behaviors" the animals learn from contact with humans.
|Coyote Meeting, Druid Hills Civic Association, Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Georgia, January 29, 2013.|
From the outset of the meeting, it was clear that meeting attendees had strong feelings about what the moderator identified as the "coyote matter." As such, many of the questions revealed tensions between ideals of human compassion and their application. In a moment of levity, a Druid Hills resident asked whether peeing on a trapped coyote might deter it from establishing territory in human spaces, enabling it to be released into the neighborhood, as opposed to euthanizing it according to state law. While the question resulted in laughter, it highlighted one of the central concerns in the room: Can we demarcate space and establish identifiable boundaries that coyotes both recognize and respect? As all three speakers agreed that coyotes will maintain a permanent presence in the Druid Hills landscape, it is apparent that we need to learn how to speak across the human-animal divide. The coyote matter provides an opportunity to reflect on the limitations of distinctions we draw between oppositional binaries such as rural/urban, domesticated/wild, human/animal that have profound implications for our understanding of the spaces we inhabit. As a new resident of Druid Hills, the neighborhood coyotes challenge me to consider Olmsted's vision of a "country" neighborhood within the Atlanta landscape and to look across the boundaries of my comfort zone, identifying opportunities for meaningful coexistence with both humans and animals in the suburban wild.
The Suburban Wild: Coyotes in Druid Hills»