The Help-Yourself City: Legitimacy and Inequality in DIY Urbanism

Date(s) - 03/28/18
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Seminary Co-Op Bookstore

Hosted by
Seminary Co-op Bookstore

The Help-Yourself City: Legitimacy and Inequality in DIY Urbanism

Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 – 6:00pm – 7:30pm

About the book: When cash-strapped local governments fail to provide adequate services, and planning policies prioritize economic development over community needs, how do concerned citizens respond? In The Help-Yourself City, Gordon Douglas looks closely at the people who take urban planning into their own hands, dubbed “do-it-yourself urban design.” Through in-depth interviews with do-it-yourselfers, professional planners, and community members, as well as participant observation, photography, media, and policy analysis, Douglas demonstrates that many do-it-yourselfers employ professional techniques and expertise to enable and inspire their actions. He argues that many unauthorized interventions are created from a position of privilege, where legal repercussions are unlikely, while people from disadvantaged communities where improvements may be most needed face disincentives to taking such actions themselves. Presenting a needed social analysis of this growing trend, while connecting it to debates on inequality, citizenship, and contemporary urban political economy, The Help-Yourself City tells a street-level story of people’s relationships to their surroundings and the individualization of democratic responsibility.

About the author: Gordon Douglas is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at San José State University, where he is also Director of the Institute for Metropolitan Studies. A multidisciplinary urbanist, Gordon’s research concerns local identity, neighborhood change, peoples’ relationships to their physical surroundings, and social and spatial inequality in urban development. His writing and photography have appeared in City & Community, the Journal of Urban Design, Urban Studies, and other journals, as well as a number of magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Prior to joining San José State, Gordon held a postdoc at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, of which he also served for a year as director. He received his PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago in 2014.

About the Urban Readers Series: In collaboration with the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, UChicago Urban has launched the Urban Readers Series, an author-centered series of readings and conversations at the Seminary Co-op.  At Urban Readers, people from all over Chicago can hear from the university’s scholars and connect with one another over urban issues, histories and futures.  All books in the series are written by UChicago’s faculty, alumni, and affiliates.