Francesca Russello Ammon, University of Pennsylvania
Brian Goldstein, University of New Mexico
Suleiman Osman, George Washington University
Aaron Shkuda, Princeton University
Since sociologist Ruth Glass coined “gentrification” in 1964, the term has denoted racial change, class transformation, and architectural rehabilitation in American cities. Yet as a simple label that describes a complicated process of urban change, gentrification has also created both physical and rhetorical spaces of contested meaning, often obscuring as much as it has revealed. Sorting out these complicated meanings – Is gentrification good for cities or bad? Does it symbolize the renaissance of urban places or new kinds of urban crisis? – has long been the province of sociologists, geographers, and urban theorists. Only in the last decade have historians turned an eye to gentrification, accepting its ambiguity but also seeking to understand it as a process with deep roots, diverse actors, and complex consequences. In recent and forthcoming works, urban historians have uncovered a story that cannot be understood through binaries of winners and losers, or insider and outsiders. In doing so, they have given a multifaceted history to the most recent period of urban change. This round table offers an opportunity for historians working on such questions to discuss these new histories of gentrification and the insights they offer on a process that is still very much underway, even as Glass’s term is a half-century old. The scholars assembled here take historical studies of gentrification in new directions by focusing on the role of universities, community organizations, historic preservation, artists, and affordable housing, among other aspects. They will discuss different ways of approaching the history of gentrification, the varied histories that result, and the methodological challenges of this field.