Imagining the City: Ritual and Conflict in the Urban Art Democracy

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Cultural sociology
Social change
Social conflict
Urban sociology
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Imagining the City: Ritual and Conflict in the Urban Art Democracy Carolyn Chernoff Stanton E.F. Wortham Charles L. Bosk Recent scholarship and public policy ask arts to drive economic growth for urban revitalization; this perspective takes positive social interaction as a given within the larger project of arts-based urban economic development. However, the social life of community arts organizations provide another lens to explore the role of art and arts organizations within the contemporary city. Within the fractured context of American cities (racial and ideological segregation), community arts provide a testing ground for social interaction across demographic difference: a place where "culture builds community" (Stern & Siefert, 2002), albeit not unproblematically. This dissertation explores democratic practices around diversity within majority-white urban community arts organizations devoted to progressive social change. Based on fieldwork, interviews, and archival research conducted at three Philadelphia nonprofit organizations over the course of eight years, I ask how progressive community arts organizations function as learning spaces, mediate and reproduce social difference, and enable new relationships with the city. Community arts play a unique role in the organization of the city, and in service of progressive urban transformation; they are also sites of social reproduction of power, privilege, and inequality. Social reproduction takes on the guise of racialized conflict, but is actually rooted in failed rituals. Along with highlighting the importance of ritual, the paths of conflict, and the contradictory processes that shape community arts organizations, my research draws attention to the multiplicity of urban identity and the role of art and culture in creating real and imagined cities.

Stanton E. Wortham
Charles L. Bosk
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