Rural Gentrification

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week, in Hines’ “Rural Gentrification,” we discussed the colonization of rural communities and small-tows by members of the ex-urban middle class.  Hines states, “Rural gentrification is best understood as the product of both continuity and change relative to the ideas/practices of Modernity and current postindustrialization.”  Hines discussed his research with four men from around the country that came from urban areas to a quieter place in Colorado.  Bringing their ideals together, Hines claims, “Members of modern middle class have aspirations to distinguish themselves as members of an emerging class faction through their emphasis upon the production and consumption of experiences.”

I found this article particularly interesting because it related to me in several ways. Growing up in a rural area for the majority of my life, I met a lot of people who would always talk about “getting out of here.”  Usually referring to a major city, these people had expectations to leave the small postindustrialization community that exists in small farmers factions.  This was contrary to Hines’ point, but in a way, it connects completely.  As Hines describes the members’ needs for the production and consumption of experiences, his point correlated to the people I knew from my hometown.  While completely the opposite, this was their own search for experiences as it was contrary to their original nature.  This addresses the specificity of human nature and plays against the subconscious’ want for a taking back to a simpler time. However, what might be chaos to one might be a paradise for the other.

Final Thoughts

June 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

This last week I finished my research by examining the statistics of homelessness in Durham as well as the demographics of the homeless crime throughout the city of Durham.  Observing the percentages of the overall homeless rate in Durham versus the average of the United States, it was useful to compare and the see the large difference homelessness in Durham compared to the national average.  Looking at the statistics found in the 2010 census, Durham experiences homeless rates that are almost seven times higher than the national average.  While the “chronic” homeless rate is approximately the same as other cities throughout the country, Durham has about seven times more people that experience homelessness at least once a year comparatively.  Furthermore, I researched the correlation between crime and homelessness in Durham and found a strong correlation between the two.  While the numbers have dropped significantly over the past few years, the correlation is still apparent and hints to one of the macroscopic problems of Durham’s crime scene.

Perhaps the most in depth research I conducted this week was on Durham’s Ten Year Plan Against Homelessness.  This plan, conducted by the Durham City Council, was not only used as a demographic study, but primarily as a solution to Durham’s high homeless rate.  While I conducted all my research for this topic online, I was enthralled to find the plethora of statistics that applied to my study.  This research provided a “new hope” aspect that I plan on incorporating into my paper.  Discussing the entire ten-year process of providing permanent housing to the “chronically” homeless in Durham, this plan showed the federal government’s conscientious response to the large problem in Durham.  Furthermore, I found out this plan is being conducted in accordance to Urban Ministries of Durham as well as a few other homeless organizations.  Surprisingly, it is also working to solve the social discrimination problem of Durham and is moving to eliminate the criminal record check boxes on the preliminary job application.  Establish this would provide the chance for an applicant to explain himself and make an impression before a prejudice forms from the man’s past.  Other approaches to stop social discrimination are being taken as well to eliminate public alienation in the community.

From this entire semester, I was able to take an introspective look at myself and reflect on many of the issues of the general public that I faced myself.  Conducting this study on the homeless, I was able to see what it is like on the other side of the sign and how it makes me feel to be alienated.  This study helped me recognize with the homeless men I talked to and open an empathetic heart to their needs.  It also refuted the common misconceptions of laziness among homeless people.  In closing, I was happy and thankful that I studied this topic because it really helped me take a closer look at myself by observing the daily lives of those less fortunate than me.

Behind the Gates

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

In Setha Low’s book “Behind the Gates,” the author describes the gated community as not only a secure, safe environment but also as something that provides a sense of psychological security or peace that connects one’s unconscious to childhood.  Low defines the difference between safety and security and discusses how the sense of security enables a community within a gate to live more easily as a whole with an implied trust between the individuals within the community. Furthermore, the topic of identity was brought up in our class discussion that I found particularly interesting.

In class, the topic that “identity means nothing if we cannot compare it to something” was discussed. This made me think about the notion of how we are products of our environment.  While culture is not described as a tangible item and rather as a set of practices, systems, and beliefs, it defines who we are as a person.  With gated communities, although it is not an “extreme” change so to speak, there are still a set of rules and regulations that one must follow in order to be accepted into the community.  This therefore becomes part of that person.  While there are so many movements to express individuality, are not we just products of the culture around us? Is that idea not conforming itself? I really enjoyed this article because it made me think of about individuality as a whole and if it really is unique to everyone.  This similarly could bring up the notion of nature versus nurture and the question of whether one’s “individuality” is just a product of everything around them or actually genetic.

Homelessness: Ernest and Tony

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

This week, I had the opportunity to visit Urban Ministries again to talk to a few people about my project and hold a few more interviews. From my research results, I was able to deduce quite a few statistics regarding the demographics of homelessness in Durham, as well as the mentality of labor versus staying unemployed for some of the homeless people. This week gave me an eye opening view of the different types of homeless people that are living on the streets and directly contradict the general tendency to group together all of the homeless in a specific social category. From my results, I was able to support the point that each person is different and comes with a different story, and that there is not one easy solution that can solve the problem of homelessness for all of Durham.

While visiting Urban Ministries, I first spoke with a man named Ernest Porter. A tall, forty-three year old African American man, Ernest met me outside of the shelter and was very open to talk. As we conversed, Ernest told me about how he had been arrested for drug charges in San Antonio, Texas and spent sixteen years of his life in prison. Upon leaving prison for parole, he moved to Durham when he began a relationship online and decided to move in with his Internet girlfriend. Upon moving to Durham, however, he was not able to find a job due to his criminal record. The relationship ended, and he found himself unable to make end’s meet. He then turned to the shelter for help and has been homeless for five months. Talking to Ernest, I began thinking about the statistics of homelessness and crime and the correlation between them. It was also interesting to see how this was similar to the same “rut” David spoke about and how it was tough to progress in the world when living on the streets.

The second person I spoke to was a sixty-three year old Caucasian man named Tony and stated he was the second oldest person at the shelter. Tony told me about how he was a Vietnam combat veteran for nineteen months, and how those nineteen months had degraded his life when he came home. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Tony suffers nightmares and panic attacks that haunt him for the entirety of his life and were the reason he is now homeless. Due to a panic attack, his wife divorced him, he was fired from his job, and the rest of his family found him “embarrassing” and subsequently told him not to communicate with him. He stays in Durham due to the VA Hospital, but he stated that he never pictured himself in this position at that age. Talking to Tony was a pleasure as he was a very friendly man, but it made me realize that homelessness is much more complex than being impoverished and without a job. Homelessness quite often is in a list of many other specific things that cause the general public to pull away or discriminate against these people. From this week, I was able to further emphasize this topic of a much wider spread of diversity among the homeless and their situations that entail.

Review: Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy

June 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

In Arjun Appadurai’s article “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Appadurai discusses the evolution of widespread global interactions and the tensions between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization.  In the article, Appadurai explains how the common model of understanding of the global economy does not fit with the ever expanding and changing cultural mixing in this current era.  The previous thoughts of separate “center-periphery models” and “push and pull (in terms of migration theory)” do not correspond to the “movements,” as he calls them, of cultural expression.  Introducing the terms of ethnoscapes (movement of people), mediascapes (movement of media), technoscapes (movement of technology), ideoscapes, (movement of ideas), and finanscapes (movement of money), Appadurai discusses how these five essential constructs overthrow the previous notions of separate economies and “pure capitalism.”  Essentially, these five dimensions of global cultural flow cause a “disorganized capitalism,” which involves the separate, disjointed operations of the “economy, culture, and politics.” Appadurai states that in order to understand how to conduct the most successful global economy, the understanding of these “diasporas” and movements of cultural products needs to be achieved.

 

I found this piece particularly interesting in terms of the entire global economy.  It is fascinating to think about how every aspect, whether political, economic, or social, ties into making up an entire culture.  It also pulls on the fact that culture is not one specific thing or idea, but rather the commodity of multiple factors. This article made me think about how each sphere is operated separately, and the misunderstanding or global miscommunication of one sphere can affect the entirety of nation.  I really enjoyed this article specifically because it talked about communication between nations and states on a global scale.

Homelessness Ethnography: David

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Understanding the diversity and variability of those living on the streets and their respective stories is the first step in addressing the widespread problem of homelessness.  Much too often do people group homeless people into one category in terms of judging their background before meeting them.  The common phrase of “homelessness is a choice” or “they’ll use the money for drugs or alcohol” is not only prejudiced, but is weighted in ignorance that parallels racism.  While homelessness is not associated with one specific race (as people of all races can be seen without homes in Durham), the most popular social response to a homeless person is similar to traditional racism.  It is essentially economic segregation.  From these prejudices, people often refuse interaction with the homeless.

This week, I visited two places to conduct my research.  The first was a place called Urban Ministries.  Urban Ministries of Durham is an organization that provides food, clothing, and shelter for the homeless of the area as well as those struggling on the edge of keeping their homes.  At Urban Ministries, I found the majority, if not all, of those receiving help to be black men and women.  Since UMD is located in downtown East Durham, I found this to be an interesting statistic in regards to the demographics of the area.  Downtown East Durham, in general, is regarded as the more impoverished, lower socioeconomic area of Durham.  The majority of the population in East Durham is also black.  Considering these facts, it was not surprising to find most of the Social Services and other Ministries located in this area.  I was not able to speak with any of the residents as I only observed, but I was able to gather this information to discuss further on the diversity of homelessness in my paper.

However, my largest amount of research came in the form of an interview that I conducted with a man named David on the median among the cars at the New Hope Commons.  David discussed his story of how he was in the Army for sixteen years, came back home where he was laid off during the economic slump, and how his wife died of cancer three years ago.  He told me specifically of how each day is different, with good days and bad days, and how he wakes up specifically thanking God for his life.  He further told me of how he is able to live in a cabin with another friend named Sparky, but he never knows if it is permanent.  “Finding a job is extremely hard in this economy, but everyday is a new day,” he said.  When asked if he could consider himself happy or not, he responded, “I’m content. Really nothing to worry about with God. But times are pretty tough.”

My meeting with David specifically showed me a different attitude of homelessness.  With little money and no job, David was a warm hearted, friendly man.  He described more details about his interactions with the general public and the police, which I will discuss more in the paper itself.  However, the biggest thing that I pulled from my interview with David was his never-ending spirit of hope and optimism.  From this, I will hopefully be able to show the realism behind the spirit of a homeless man in my paper.

Society’s Own Discrimination

June 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

Holistically grappling with the topic of homelessness is not an easy task, especially in such an ethnically diverse city as Durham.  Behind the traffic vests and tattered appearance lies a distinct subculture that remains disregarded and unseen by the general public.  While the topic of homelessness raises a myriad of opinions and political stances in the public, the fact that each situation varies from homeless person to homeless person is often overlooked and subsequently targeted as a uniform problem. My research this week very much refuted this thought, and from this, I plan to adjust the rest of my project accordingly.

I began my research by talking with a man (who asked to remain nameless) who sat on the side of Hillsborough Road.  Appearing in his mid forties or early fifties claimed that he had been homeless for twenty-one years.  According to him, the hardest part of being homeless is not living on the street (not to say it is easy by any means), but “how difficult it was to move up in the world.”  He continued to explain the difficulties of getting a job without a permanent address, as many employers tend to stereotype homeless applicants.  “Employers aren’t the only ones though,” he said.  Banks, police, public officials, and even the general public seem to treat homeless people the same way: in some manner different from everyone else.  Whether it is the turn away of heads as the stoplight turns red and cars pull up to the intersection, or the denial of any sort of housing privileges without being fully employed and an appropriate background check, the man explained that he did feel alienated, set aside, and discriminated against.  He was stuck.  Unable to become employed due to the alienation of employers, he could not progress his way up in the socioeconomic world.  This is a sad but true fact for the majority of the homeless population.

Talking with the man this week showed me a few major points in my research.  One of these being the fact that not all homeless people are the same.  While this point seems basic, it is almost always bypassed.  Quite often, the statements that “homelessness is a life choice” or that “the homeless beg because they are too lazy to work” are imprinted in the general public’s mentality.  This is far from the truth and wrongly categorizes all homeless people in an unjustifiable stereotype that abundantly exists throughout the community.  Most often, society’s response to the homeless is a lecture on a “lifestyle change” or to get a job.  This commonly misconstrued response is a demonstration of not a problem with the homeless, but rather a problem with society.  Society tends to succumb to blaming the homeless for their state, denying the fact that each situation is different and subsequently alienating them from the job and housing market.  This results in a perpetual state of socioeconomic stagnancy for these homeless people.  This research helped me see that it is not necessarily these people’s fault for their poverty, but rather more commonly society’s own discrimination against their progression.