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Leaving Chicago for Iowa's "Fields of Opportunity": Community Dispossession, Rootlessness, and the Quest for Somewhere to "Be OK"

Publication Abstract

Keene, Danya, Mark Padilla, and Arline T. Geronimus. 2010. "Leaving Chicago for Iowa's "Fields of Opportunity": Community Dispossession, Rootlessness, and the Quest for Somewhere to "Be OK"." Human Organization, 69(3): 275 - 284.

In recent years, urban development and public housing demolition have posed challenges to the social and geographic rootedness of low-income African Americans in urban areas. In particular, in Chicago, widespread public housing demolition, occurring in the context of rapid gentrification, has contributed to increasing shortages of affordable low-income housing. This study uses in-depth interviews and participant observation to examine the migration experiences of men and women who have left urban neighborhoods and public housing developments in Chicago searching for affordable housing and economic opportunity in eastern Iowa. This particular analysis focuses on experiences of social and geographic "rootlessness" that emerged as a major theme in these interviews. Participants describe community dispossession in Chicago that has threatened not only the ties between individuals and their social support networks, but also connections and claims to the places in which these ties are rooted. Narratives that describe leaving Chicago in this context and then trying to get by as a stigmatized outsider in "someone else's city" speak to a process of dislocation that may disrupt critical social-support resources that are known to mitigate the consequences of structural disadvantage.

PMCID: PMC2964883. (Pub Med Central)

Public Access Link

Country of focus: United States.

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