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Universities and neoliberal models of urban development: using ethnographic fieldwork to understand the 'Death and Rebirth of North Central Philadelphia'

Susan Brin Hyatt

As a political and economic philosophy, neoliberalism has been used to reshape schools and universities, making them far more responsive to the pressures of the market. The principles associated with neoliberalism have also extended to programmes for urban economic development, particularly with respect to the largescale gentrification of neighbourhoods rendering them amenable to investments aimed at creating spaces attractive to white, middle-and-upper class consumers. In this article, I discuss how universities themselves have come to play a significant role as urban developers and investors, promoting commercial retail development and building upscale housing in neighbourhoods adjacent to their campuses. My entry point into this discussion is through describing an ethnographic methods class I taught in 2003, whereby students carried out collaborative research in the African-American neighbourhood surrounding Temple University's main campus in Philadelphia. As a result of their work, we produced a neighbourhood newspaper that sought to disrupt the commonplace assumptions about 'rescuing' the neighbourhood from what was presented as an inexorable spiral of decline; rather, our work showed that actions taken by the university, itself, had helped to produce the very symptoms of decline that the new development project now purported to remedy.

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Introduction

Boone Shear and Susan Brin Hyatt

The aim of this Special Issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences is to analyse the impacts of neoliberal restructuring on higher education and to explore ways of raising students’ critical awareness of these changes in their own environment. This Special Issue developed out of a symposium that was held at the University of Massachusetts in Spring 2008. Both Susan B. Hyatt and Vincent Lyon-Callo presented earlier drafts of their articles on that occasion, as did Dana-Ain Davis, whose article will appear in a future issue of LATISS. Shear and Zontine were the primary organisers of the symposium, along with other students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts, and in their article, they reflect on the collaborative, yearlong reading group project on neoliberalism from which the symposium emerged. We invited John Clarke to join us in writing for this issue to provide an international perspective on these issues as they are currently playing out in the U.K.