Rookie Gentrifiers: Privileged Views of Urban Space during College

- | McNeil Building 414 (Urban Studies Conference Room)
Jack Thornton

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Speaker: Jack Thornton, Sociology

Discussant: Dr. Amalia Daché, Education

Abstract: Going to college is an inherently spatialized trajectory, yet the place-based dimensions of higher education remain understudied. Using 122 interviews with students at one elite institution located in a large US city, I demonstrate how respondents developed two distinct framings of urban space during their time in college. First, students framed the city as an amenity that enhanced their mundane everyday lives. Through lifestyle consumption and productive leisure, students learned to enact a privileged relation to urban space. However, students also framed the city as a site of dispossession. Respondents were dismayed by urban inequality and critiqued their elite institution for fostering gentrification. Students experienced dissonance between their sympathy for local residents and their allegiance to the university, and these tensions were most acute for upper-middle-class, Black respondents. These place frames comprise a budding gentrifier consciousness that may anticipate many students’ postgraduatelifestyles as well-paid, urban professionals. These findings reveal the value of a spatial lens for examining the identity transformations students undergo during college. 

Please contact Tessa Huttenlocher (thutten@sas.upenn.edu) with any questions.

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