Bring on the Shock Troops: Artists and Gentrification in the Popular Press

Daniel Makagon


Gentrification is one of the most important and talked about contemporary urban issues. Critics have tended to treat the class remake of urban neighborhoods as a geographical and sociological phenomenon. This article critically examines gentrification as symbolic action. Focusing on press coverage of artist-led gentrification, I argue that reporters present a diffusion narrative that casts artists as both urban pioneers and victims of gentrification and glosses over the function of artists as the first gentrifiers in some urban neighborhoods. Ultimately, press accounts of artists as victims of gentrification reflect an underlying desire to find and maintain bohemian spaces in the face of homogeneous and sterile corporate urban revitalization projects that have contributed to a broader sense of urban placelessness. Yet, this vision is based on a bohemian image of the city that consists of young white artists while stigmatizing (through a frontier discourse) the more diverse population(s) that lived and worked in the urban neighborhood prior to the arrival of the artists.

Keywords: GentrificationUrban CommunicationFrontierPioneerSymbolic Action

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