See/Hear: Seeking the Urban ‘Authentic’ in Chicago’s Pilsen, A “Mexican Neighborhood without the Mexicans”
thesisposted on 17.02.2017, 00:00 authored by Benjamin Schulman
As an effect of the globalized economy, the production of urban space in post-industrial cities is catalyzed by its consumptive opportunities rather than by its industrialized labor capacity. These consumptive opportunities represent a commodity and capital flow that redefine the neighborhood as a lifestyle product and inform the manifestation of its built environment while altering its social, political and economic networks. While lifestyle products may take different forms, the rise of a contemporary bohemia, colloquially associated with the “hipster,” is a symbol of an urban lifestyle product associated with a quest for “authenticity” found within the urban landscape. This authenticity is often sought in low-income, minority neighborhoods, whose political, social, economic and physical structures are transformed through the urban consumption process. This paper proposes a new model, the See/Hear method, to contextualize both quantitative and qualitative measures of the urban landscape, and to measure the degree of political, social, economic and physical change in an “authentic” neighborhood: Chicago’s Pilsen, a neighborhood transitioning from a working class, Mexican enclave into a wealthier, whiter neighborhood. The resulting analysis of Pilsen, consisting of visual and narrative components to produce a complete picture of place, reveals a neighborhood whose strong sense of place – for both long-term and newer residents – is susceptible to full-scale transformation as new demographic and capital flows move into the neighborhood and threaten its history of strong social, economic and political ties.