Resourceful cities
Berlin (Germany), 29-31 August 2013
Humboldt-University Berlin, Institute for Social Science, Dept. for Urban and Regional Sociology

Gentrification revisited: New methods to research displacement

Gentrification is a widely debated – even contested – topic in urban research. Positively connoted terms like urban renaissance, inner city revitalization and neighborhood upgrading have recently come to the fore of the debate, discursively challenging concerns about the displacement of lower income households from inner city neighborhoods in the course of the process (cf. Slater, 2006). Following its original conceptualization, however, displacement constitutes the core of the phenomenon. As Marcuse (1992:80) points out, “[d]isplacement is the essence of gentrification, its goal, not an unwanted side-effect.”
Though being the core of gentrification, displacement has proven difficult to research  empirically. In particular the processual character of gentrification has posed difficulties to researchers. Once gentrification in an area has taken off, measuring displacement resembles to “measure the invisible” (Atkinson, 2000). Most existing quantitative accounts have circumvented this challenge by looking at aggregate changes in the socio-economic profile of a gentrifying area, thereby however only indirectly making inferences about displacement. Qualitative accounts on the other side have tended to focus on narratives about how a gentrifying area changes, again without however directly engaging with displacees themselves.
The lack of empirical proof for the injustices created by gentrification has also had a de-politicizing effect on the whole debate (cf. Slater, 2006). Without sufficient proof at hand, people have started to question whether gentrification was so negative after all. Central aim of this session is to reinvigorate the critical element of gentrification by tackling one of its core methodological problems.
By now there seems to be a consensus that displacement can take different forms. Marcuse (1985) for instance distinguishes direct displacement, displacement pressure and exclusionary displacement. Taking such distinctions as a starting point we invite papers that address one of the following questions, or other related ones.
What are methodological challenges to empirically investigate different forms of displacement?
What are new innovative methods to analyze different forms of displacement?
We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions and strongly encourage comparative work, especially work that bridges the North / South divide present also in gentrification research.

Session Organizers

Justin Kadi, GPIO, AISSR, University of Amsterdam, Pachmüllerg. 2/15, 1120 Vienna, Austria, T: +4369910381685, E: j.kadi@gmx.net
Roman Seidl, Centre of Regional Science, Vienna University of Technology, T: +43 (1) 58801 – 280223, E: seidl@srf.tuwien.ac.at

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