Inhabiting the impasse: Social exclusion through visible assemblage in neighborhood gentrification

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Now that gentrification has taken hold in central Cincinnati and begun to spill outward, nearby neighborhoods in the early stages of gentrification have begun to call for “inclusive redevelopment” to bring vibrancy to depressed neighborhoods without displacing long-term residents. Neighborhood leaders and city officials understand that displacement happens along racial and class lines, yet efforts to directly address this issue have not changed displacement patterns. Research shows social exclusion contributes to displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods, and tends to focus on uneven impact across social categories like race and class, but there is much less attention to how exclusion is enacted and these categories reproduced. I argue that this takes place simultaneously in the intimate space and time of everyday encounters, where proximity and relation unfold affectively through things and people to code them anew, pulling some into the momentum of redevelopment, while pushing others aside. This cognitive reversal of how categories work is important because it relocates their origin in small, interstitial, and nonhuman sites. Pairing assemblage theory and posthumanism with interviews and field notes, I demonstrate the role of nonhuman forces in shaping these encounters; how materials like cheese, pint glasses, trash, beards, and liver & onions play marked roles in producing marginalization. My findings show that things and people compose visible assemblages together, like a group of people sitting at a sidewalk table eating pizza and drinking beer. These assemblages are operative in producing and reinforcing social exclusion: they usher practiced bias through the surface aesthetics of the assorted components, enabling affective atmospheres to prescribe outcomes. These emergent, visible assemblages are thus important sites for intervention into processes of social exclusion leading to displacement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
Early online date21 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • gentrification
  • social exclusion
  • posthuman
  • new materialism
  • assemblage
  • affect


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