Making place: conflict, connection and community writing
Annie Knepler (Portland State University)
Paper short abstract:
This presentation explores how participants in a community-based writing project in Chicago narrate, create, and recreate their everyday relationships to the places they inhabit.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation explores how participants in a community-based writing project in Chicago narrate, create, and recreate their everyday relationships to the places they inhabit. Combining textual analysis with my own observations as a participant-observer, I draw on scholarship in urban studies, public sphere theory, literacy and composition studies, rhetoric, sociology, and cultural studies. The writing groups meet in public libraries and social service agencies in low-income areas. As the demographics of the city change, many of the sites where the groups meet are either in or on the verge of areas that have experienced gentrification. In a rapidly-changing city, where low-income neighborhoods are gentrifying, public housing units are disappearing, and new construction often replaces full blocks of buildings at a time, it is important to consider how those who are most easily displaced represent their relationship to place in their own words. I focus on writing created in a group that met during the 1990s in a predominantly African American neighborhood, a neighborhood that was in the midst of transformation as public housing was being radically transformed and newer, more high-end homes were being constructed. These changes offered the possibility of new resources to residents who had suffered from poor housing, bad infrastructure, and a lack of amenities. However, they also raised the very real threats of possible displacement and the loss of long-standing neighbors. The writing demonstrates the various ways in which people connect to place, connections that are economic, social, emotional, complicated, and often conflicted.
Shaping space through personal narrative