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Survey of Scholarship

The Survey of Scholarship provides information about the existing scholarship around gentrification and historic preservation while also stating how this research project will contribute to the field of study.

     As gentrification has moved into its third wave since the 1990’s, scholars have attempted to define it within various scopes, though it still remains subjective in nature. Scholarship around gentrification extends far and wide in different directions, with much of it focused on large cities like New York and Los Angeles, yet, it is far reaching across all of the United States, including the Midwest and Southern states. Steve Holland provides a basic foundation for defining gentrification when stating it is a “process of demographic shifts…not categorically good or bad” (1). Though this may be true to an extent, examining the discourse of how gentrified areas are created, maintained, and advertised for tourism and real estate purposes, shows patterns of racialized exploitation around the United States. Some existing scholarship connects race to gentrification discourse, and areas that have been categorized as historic, for the purposes of furthering gentrification. Overall though, gentrification research regarding racialized rhetoric and gentrification in smaller cities, is sparse.

     In understanding the problematic and racialized motives behind gentrification in American cities, it is important to first recognize its definition as subjective and the challenges that arise from differing opinions on the topic. The main characteristics attributed to gentrification include migration, wealth and class, social change, and social justice. In Gentrification: Causes and Consequences, Steve Holland describes it as, “difficult to define, to identify and measure its effects, and to reach a judgement about whether it is good or bad…because gentrification is not categorically good or bad” (1). While some solely see it as displacement caused by wealthier community members, Holland prefers to view it as a process of demographic shifts, avoiding “assumptions about the nature of its effects” (5). Looking at gentrification involves examining its effects as well as its root causes, which are generally seen as supply-side factors, demand-side factors, and the decision making of urban policymakers. Holland’s explanation of supply-side and demand-side factors expresses how housing prices, property values, and workplace proximity affect people’s desire to leave or move back to the city, but fails to express the direct effect of historically racialized housing policies, white flight, and segregation on location decision-making. Instead, Holland argues, “race is clearly an element of gentrification, but, at this point, is still poorly understood.” This research will use race as the focal point when examining gentrification in Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce district due to its foundation in segregation. While Holland sees race as one poorly understood factor of gentrification, this work will show it to be one of the largest components in the language used and decisions made regarding the district.


     In chapter three of, Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space, Neil Smith tackles the complexity of the space around us as it is understood in the context of nature, science, society, and geography. Human understanding of space has evolved through time, and Smith states that the type of society one lives in directly affects how space is viewed. Though Smith writes that space should be viewed as much more than a means of production, “Production of Space” is a way of thinking that unifies the relationship between space and human practice at the conceptual level, rather than seeing them as two separate entities that interact with each other. Smith writes, “production of space also implies the production of the meaning, concepts, and consciousness of space which are inseparably linked to its physical production…Space is no longer an “accident of matter” but a direct result of material production” (14). Smith discusses the large role capitalism plays in creating space, and states that it can no longer be thought of as a container, but, rather, it is created through the actions of humans. Though Smith notes that Marx didn’t directly discuss space, he believes it can fit easily into Marxist theory. Smith writes that capitalism has created, “a remarkable historical creation of absolute space. As capital extends its sway, the entire globe is partitioned into legally distinct parcels, divided by great white fences, real or imaginary” (25). Though space is less absolute and restricted than modern Western society believes, capitalism changes how space is viewed and understood. In regard to areas of space with historic designation status, this argument reveals how the culture of a space from the past is used for economic advantage in the present. The current culture creates the space, not the other way around. This is relevant when looking at the changes in Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce neighborhood. When capitalism affects a space, it influences how it is perceived and interacted with. This research will break down how capitalism is used to exploit the past cultural discourse of Deep Deuce, and how the space of the neighborhood reflects the interests of those in power, and those seeking to make money. This research aims to show how the current space created in the Deep Deuce does not place value on its past connections to the African American community, but, rather, gives more meaning to profit, thus exploiting its original history for gain. This misunderstanding of how space works shows in how this historic neighborhood has been used to gentrify the area with a largely white, affluent population—catering to their needs through housing and businesses, yet still leaning on the narrative of the past space to further their interests.

     While many sociologists of the 1990’s categorized the patterns of consumption by the desires and needs of those who consumed them (specifically the new middle class), Sharon Zukin argues in, “Socio-spatial Prototypes of a New Organization of Consumption: The Role of Real Cultural Capital,” that the consumer realm is more than symbolic, but rather, cultural capital plays a material role in investment and production, which has a direct relationship with gentrification (18). Zukin refers to cultural capital as an individual and collective resource, as well as an “accessory to social power,” arguing that there needs to be an understanding of the engagement between the external (political, economic, spatial) and internal motivations of consumption (3). Gentrification’s consumption markers favor a specific type of space—mainly areas from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that can be given the historical preservation label. Gentrifiers are known for an obsession with the past, and “Their willingness to research such details and painstakingly restore, re-create, or reproduce them in their homes…expresses a striving toward the monumental, elitist, essentially cultural power that some central urban spaces have always retained” (5). While gentrifiers seek authentication through historical connection, consumption is also tailored to their needs, with a strong focus on shopping and architectural restoration to form a coherent space of consumption. This all works to attract the type of residents and tourists contributed to changing the integrity of the original community of gentrified areas (6). Zukin writes, “By buying into this cultural capital, gentrifiers also buy into a spatial narrative that makes up a new fictive nexus of the city. Areas that had for years seemed rundown, archaic, even disused are regenerated by invoking a quasi-mythical past.” This space is given more credibility through the coveted landmark historic district label, even though there is no objective standard for these types of designations, and much of the decision making lies in the social power of the committees in charge. Zukin agrees with Patrick Wright that a gentrified neighborhood is not so much a real place, but rather, exists between “the prosaic reality of the contemporary inner city and an imaginative reconstruction of the area's past” (7). This idea portrays the truth of Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce area, which is led by a narrative of history that no longer applies to its current reality. This research will dissect this narrative to show how cultural consumption has exploited the area for the sake of tourism and residential living.


     In “Different Shades of Change: Historic Districts and Their Impact on Gentrification and Neighborhood Trends,” Karolina Gorska studies how historic district designation affects gentrification trends in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Gorska states, “if revitalization is desired within neighborhoods that provide affordable housing options due to incumbent upgrading (Clay 1979) or increased market interest, the question of how preservation relates to displacement and gentrification is fundamental” (15). Gorska found in her research that many of the neighborhoods with historic designation had more non-white than white residents and higher cost of living than city and county average. Through the typologies she created, she found that 13 of the 29 neighborhoods transitioned over time from one type to another, showing shifts in economic class and/or racial composition. While more neighborhoods remained the same, this does show demographic change is possible in historically preserved areas. Gorska’s research shows that it is important to evaluate who has decision-making control and influence. Though the language used by the Office of Historic Resources implies that the needs of entire community remain the focus while making decisions regarding these areas, closer examination reveals, “those that are the most active guide and influence the final document,” which does not accurately consider the complete community. The author finishes her dissertation with four policy recommendations: “1) greater design and housing flexibility for HPOZs, 2) required community outreach, 3) the reconsideration of HPOZ designation by the City Council Motion, and 4) a need for anti-displacement strategies” (374). HPOZ stands for Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. Gorska defines HPOZ’s as “an area of the city, which is designated for its architectural, cultural, or aesthetic significance” (12). Gorska focuses on 29 different HPOZs in the Los Angeles area, while this research will focus on one particular Oklahoma City neighborhood, Deep Deuce, which has undergone the most drastic changes from its former community built from segregation lines to its present one, catering to primarily affluent white tourists and residents. Gorska’s assessment of the relationship between the communities, those with more power, and how final decisions are made, shows there is a need to examine these same factors regarding Deep Deuce. This research will examine the language attributed to historic designation used to promote whitewashing of Deep Deuce’s history to better serve gentrification in the area.


     In “Tourists in Historic Towns: Urban Conservation and Heritage Management,” Aylin Orbasli describes urban heritage as the “interpretation of history by a variety of users and by decision makers aiming to attract more users.” Stating that the past is both more accessible and more vulnerable, Orbasli describes an underlying tension that exists in this environment between the present and past, the internal and external (8). Cities have undergone rapid change since industrialization and the advancement of technology, and now historic districts/cities have a commercialized value, which creates the next big wave of change: mass tourism. Going off of Youngson’s argument that, “Civilisation resides in communities, not in things,” the author states preserving an object is not sufficient in preserving the environment once occupied by a different community (9). The research regarding Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce area will root itself in this idea, analyzing the language used to attract tourists and new residents into an area that has completely changed regarding its community, connection to African American history, and culture. While Orbasli argues no place belongs solely to one culture or nationality, this work will emphasize the rhetorical significance of using the language, culture, and history of a place strongly connected to African American people to further the development of a new, significantly white community with no ties to the former beyond occupying their space.  

     In, “The Importance of Downtown in the 21st Century,” Donovan D. Rypkema highlights the continuing importance of public spaces, specifically the downtown area, in expressing the meaning of the community. Rypkema views buildings as symbolic, yet, recognizes more recent architecture in cities to have no meaning. Arguing there is a lost relationship between the intellect and emotion between the building and what occurs within them, Rypkema writes, “This affects both historic preservation and new construction. The buildings that were built in a day when the building was the message ought to be kept because the message—our common set of values—is, or ought to be, as valid as ever” (2). Regarding this idea of common set of beliefs, Rypkema recognizes that the individuals of a community have varying beliefs and opinions, but that they still share a desire for things such as mutual respect, recognition of tradition, and an appreciation for history. If a community wants to truly maintain meaning in these beliefs, this requires buildings with value. Because economic and cultural globalization seeps into all 21st century cities, “local response to globalization will necessitate identifying local assets…those assets need first to be identified, then protected, then enhanced” (4). Rypkema believes cities should assess what makes their community’s unique character competitive to a global economy rather than becoming a victim of globalization and the meaninglessness that can infect and destroy the values of a city, specifically its downtown. He points out that, throughout the country, historic districts are unique in being one of the only areas that house a wide varying range of people from different classes and races; if a person is not living in a historic district, they are guaranteed to be in a segregated neighborhood. This statement is interesting when evaluating Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce area, considering there is almost no diversity in class and race in the neighborhood currently. This shows there to be a need to evaluate the rhetorical value of Deep Deuce’s historical preservation status and how it compares to other, less segregated historic districts in America. Rypkema writes, “If we are to have meaningful historic preservation, downtowns are important” (6). With this in mind, looking at Oklahoma City’s entire downtown discourse is necessary in understanding how they value and emphasize their community character as they rapidly change and revamp their downtown and historic areas. It is also important to evaluate how segregation and racism affects this “common set of beliefs” Rypkema speaks of when looking at the core character of a whole city. This is especially necessary when looking at a neighborhood that was created solely for segregation purposes.


     Contrasting Rypkema’s belief that historic areas are the least segregated areas, Velma Zahirovic-Herbert and Swarn Chatterjee argue historical designation can parallel the effects of gentrification, leading to displacement of local residents and an increase of a white and more affluent population. In, “Historic Preservation and Residential Property Values: Evidence from Quantile Regression,” Zahirovic-Herbert and Chatterjee write that, “maintaining physical reminders of the past creates a deeper sense of place that enhances residents’ and visitors’ perception of a neighborhood,” while also offering economic benefits, and leading to enhancements in the area (1). Though there may be a wide range of positive improvements that come from historical preservation, similar to gentrification, it opens the area to exploitation, and can directly result in displacement of low to moderate-income residents due to higher property taxes and rental value (2). Zahirovic-Herbert and Chatterjee explain the differences between local and national designation, stating historic districts have the opportunity to have both types. The National Register holds much respect and gives the historic district opportunities to receive federal tax credits and grants. Local designation provides protection through the Historic Preservation Commission without tax credit opportunities but can additionally include landmarks that are not listed on the National Register. Using the Hedonic price models in Louisiana, the authors conclude, “Houses that are in close proximity to historic landmarks sell for a substantial premium over comparable properties (7.5 per cent higher prices),” which also agrees with Leichenko et al.’s data finding Texan historic designation premiums between 4.9 to 20 percent (9). Leichenko et al. further emphasizes in, “Historic Preservation and Residential Property Values: An Analysis of Texas Cities,” that local, state, or national designation has a “mixed effect on housing values,” concluding that, although historical designation may have a negative effect on property values on an individual basis (as argued by critics), overall, it primarily boosts value in the Texas areas studied (12). The research on Deep Deuce will require looking at the district’s local, state, and national historic designation status and how that plays a role in the decision making for the neighborhood up to the present. This can then be rhetorically analyzed for how historical designation status has been used to increase property values.

     In his article, “An Examination of Selected Consequences of Revitalization in Six US Cities,” Frank F. DeGiovanni looks at twelve different neighborhoods from six cities, analyzing the costs and benefits of areas labeled revitalized. To understand the consequences of this revitalization, he categorized changes into three categories: “(1) changes that are distinguishing features of revitalization (2) changes that may accompany revitalization but which are not essential components of the process; and (3) changes that are probably the consequences of revitalization.” DeGiovanni refers to “immigration of higher-income groups, property renovation, or the altered nature of market transactions” as the consequences (3). Additionally, increased property tax and significant transitions from renter to owner-occupied homes can affect those in the area before revitalization occurs, resulting in displacement. When looking at renovation of declining homes, DeGiovanni finds evidence that revitalization can encourage rehabilitation by pre-revitalized occupants, but this result wasn’t conclusive for many of the gentrified areas, showing there to be little evidence that this was a true, consistent result from revitalization. Overall, new incomers still complete the majority of renovation in these areas. While his research shows cities usually gain from revitalization through increased property tax revenues and rehabilitation of the areas, comparable non-revitalized neighborhoods show there to be little difference in assessed values between the two (14). While the cities benefit less than usually suggested, multiple negative consequences result from reinvestment, including the potential for displacement, removal of renting options, and increased rent and housing costs (11-12, 14). While the changes regarding renting is comparable to non-gentrified areas, the analyzed cities also show to be “underassessing improved properties relative to their increase in value” (14). DeGiovanni tackles the complexity of assessing the impact of gentrification by taking on the word revitalization and showing it to be both positive and negative. While he focuses on housing, renovation, and taxes, this work will investigate the word revitalization through a rhetorical lens, showing how this word is understood and applied by everyone affected by gentrification in the Deep Deuce area of Oklahoma City. This will involve interviewing residents and looking closely at the language of those who benefit from the revitalization and those who experience the negative consequences of it.


     Though rhetoric of choice is applied to both feminist (abortion, motherhood) and racial issues surrounding the idea of choice, “The Rhetoric of Choice: Segregation, Desegregation, and Charter Schools,” by Ansley T. Erickson, focuses on how language surrounding individual choice and decision-making is used to justify educational segregation in the past (desegregation) and present (segregated charter schools). Explaining that desegregation created “powerful myths about inequality” that worked to attribute autonomous individual choice to its failure to succeed, he writes, “Examining the gap between the rhetoric and the reality clarifies the history of desegregation” (2). This false choice now takes the form of parental “choice” in the ability to choose charter schools, yet, in both past and present, policy plays a much larger role in creating limited options for students and encouraging segregation. Erickson quotes Matthew Lassifer in stating that the invisibility of these heavy-handed policies “contributes to color-blind suburbanites innocence.” By accepting rhetoric of choice, the achievements of these suburbanites can be attributed to hard-work, instead of “reliance on extensive and effective government subsidy in housing and beyond.” Even in documenting this time period, historians heavily favored the white perspective, neglecting how desegregation affected African American communities (4). Erickson concludes rhetoric of choice holds such strong influence to this day because it “offers an appealingly simple, yet fundamentally false, line of thinking about what makes segregation and inequality and what could make greater equality” (6). Just as examining the gap clarifies history regarding school segregation, bringing rhetoric of choice into this research will help break down whitewashing in Oklahoma City’s history regarding white flight and desegregation, and its direct effect on the past decline of the original Deep Deuce area. Though Erickson uses examples from different American school districts and its connection to segregation in charter schools, my research will solely take a look at Oklahoma City and Deep Deuce. I will trace the rhetorical moves of decision/policy making in Oklahoma from the early 1900’s and forward, centering Deep Deuce’s history. This information will connect to the present-day discourse surrounding the area, problematizing the exploitation of Deep Deuce’s forgotten history, while unveiling the inaccuracies of contributing segregation and white flight to individual choice, which both strongly contributed to the collapse of the original community of the area. Erickson’s writes, “we need a better way to think and talk about how both current and historic policy choices interact with individual choices…any approach to educational improvement needs to take account of both” (7). Understanding this directly relates to the thinking of Oklahoman’s regarding the changes in Oklahoma City, a link will be created between individual action and the larger policies regarding past and present changes in Deep Deuce and historical preservation as a whole in Oklahoma City.

     In the article, “Tourism Gentrification: The Case of New Orleans Vieux Carree (French Quarter),” Kevin Fox Gotham uses the French Quarter to challenge the claim that gentrification “is a reflection of consumer demands, individual preferences or market laws of supply and demand” (1). Similar to Erickson’s argument that changes in cities are not merely reactive to the will of the public, Gotham contributes tourism gentrification to the power of the tourism industry, resulting in a specific type of gentrification that increases housing prices, resulting in displacement of community members, and an increase in tourist attractions such as large entertainment clubs. Gotham provides an overview of a scholarly approach to gentrification, pointing out that many scholars agree that gentrification today differs from the 1970’s and 1980’s (the third wave of gentrification began in the 1990’s and continues to present day), yet “few scholars agree on how analysts should conceptualise gentrification…they disagree over its form, incidence and impact” (2). Preservationists have worked to keep tourist-centered businesses out of the mainly diverse residential Vieux Carre area, yet there has recently been an increase in hotels, bed and breakfasts, time-shares, condominiums, and large entertainment clubs; rises in median incomes and property values followed, while conversion of homes to condominiums displaced lower-income and African American people (2). Gotham’s work shows gentrification to affect more than just spatial differentiation, class shifts, and displacement. Its relationship with commercialization shows the real estate and tourism industries to have greater influence on community changes than individual preference of the consumer. “Consumer taste for gentrified spaces is, instead, created and marketed, and depends on the alternatives offered by powerful capitalists who are primarily interested in producing the built environment from which they can extract the highest profit” (16). The author’s scope of the New Orleans French Quarter has similarities to the scope of this research over Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce, in that the conflicts surround commercial revitalization, historical preservation, and neighborhood integrity. While Gotham aims to examine the “relationship between global economic process and local actions in the transformation of urban space,” the goal of this work is to connect his findings to the discourse of tourism and residential living in the Deep Deuce, showing how the language exploits historical preservation for the benefit of the tourism industry and gentrification (2).

     David Wilson and Dennis Grammenos look at the vital relationship between gentrification and rhetoric when discussing its affect on Chicago’s Puerto Rican communities in the article, “Gentrification, Discourse, and the Body: Chicago’s Humboldt Park.” The authors describe rhetoric as “crucial to gentrification. Through such rhetoric, a potentially contentious and politically explosive process is facilitated or obstructed” (1). Real-estate capital is an active contributor to this controlling narrative. This type of discourse promotes gentrification as “cleansing, beneficial, and city-serving,” as it attacks the character, identities, and bodies of communities that are predominantly lower-class and non-white (3). Chicago’s gentrified rhetoric has transformed from “saving and salvaging” to “confrontation and cleanup.” This shift creates a discourse around improving the moral decline of the character of the communities and is seen on an institutional level through examples such as curfew ordinances and reduced housing subsidies (5). All of this makes gentrification easier to swallow as residents want to “clean up” areas that have been labeled as dirty and immoral. Wilson and Grammenos note that coding youth bodies (such as the way they look and dress) is a main rhetorical strategy, connecting the way they look and exist within the space of the community to their negative stereotyped identities, thus being something that needed to be addressed and fixed by gentrification. The authors then examine how imagined spaces are used in this rhetorical strategy to create a narrative that works in their favor. For Humbolt Park’s Puerto Rican community, “these imagined spaces repetitiously offered and tied to these kids in discourse, infused bodies with meanings to serve as Lefebvre's (1984) spatial reference points. `Ghettos', `ethnic enclaves', `public-housing blocks', `decrepit downtowns', and `the streets' illuminated the supposed real landscapes that shaped and molded these kids” (10). Understanding the way people in power use racialized rhetorical strategies and stereotypes to code the bodies and identities of the communities they gentrify is important in understanding the complexity of gentrification’s effects. Similar to this area of Chicago, Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce area, a historically African American community, has seen multiples tides of community change through the years. The aim of this work is to analyze the discourse of those who influenced and made decisions resulting in these changes and how they used African American bodies and their identities and culture to serve changes resulting in the decline of the area in the 20th century, and erasure of Black culture through gentrification in the past decade.

     Discussion around gentrification is large and far-reaching in the academic field and pop culture, yet meaningful analysis of its racialized facets is immensely lacking. Though scholars have difficulty giving gentrification a straightforward definition, there is no doubt that it affects communities and spaces in both positive and negative ways, all depending on perspective and privilege. Scholarship shows that changes in gentrified areas are more often the result of decision making by those in power and those looking to economically benefit, rather than an accurate reflection of the needs and desires of the community as a whole. This also proves true for many neighborhoods with historic designation status, resulting in exploitation of an area’s history to make money and further tourism, businesses, and real estate. This creates a need for understanding the role rhetoric plays in influencing the perspective of the community, especially when looking at historic African American neighborhoods experiencing gentrification, due to it frequently resulting in displacement of residents of color by affluent white people. This research aims to bring a lacking racialized perspective to existing gentrification research that studies historically designated neighborhoods. To remove race from the conversation is to look at gentrification incompletely, which further removes people of color from the discussion. Though there is a large amount of research that touches on gentrification and its relationship to industry and historic districts, there is still a growing need for scholars to introduce race into the discussion in a meaningful way.

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