Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Political Science

First Advisor

Adolph Reed Jr.


This dissertation traces the historical development of neighborhood-level civic, economic, and political institutions since the 1960s, and shows that these institutions limit possibilities for contemporary grassroots organizing around economic issues. Using secondary and archival data, the first section of the project examines sequences of institutional development in urban neighborhoods, showing that interactions between racial justice movements, local and federal programs, philanthropy, and changing economic conditions, produced a field of neighborhood-based organizations committed to pro-capitalist—and later distinctively neoliberal—forms of development, and which construct these projects in militant discourses on racial empowerment and identity. Using ethnographic, social network, and textual analysis, the second section of the dissertation shows how 1) these institutions encourage neighborhood residents to develop ideological commitments to and material investments in neoliberal modes of economic and social practice in distressed urban neighborhoods; 2) that the wide diffusion of these commitments and investments impedes efforts to organize residents around progressive economic projects. The project also shows that, in neighborhoods with large concentrations of recently arrived immigrants, neighborhood institutions are less likely to be incorporated into neoliberal regimes, and more likely to be shaped by alternative ideologies, imported through transnational activist networks. These findings elucidate the politics of economic policy, suggesting that neighborhood-based institutions reproduce commitments to neoliberalism, supporting the political resilience of neoliberal regimes. On the other hand, the findings also suggest oppositional cultures may flourish at the neighborhood level, insofar as neighborhood institutions are incompletely incorporated into neoliberal regimes. Finally, the findings support the theoretical arguments that the urban neighborhood is a crucial site of identity and interest formation, and that neighborhood-level community development organizations are key sites of neoliberal subject formation.

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