Robert Chaskin on Remaking the Inner City

5:00–7:00 pm
UChicago Center in Delhi


Professor Robert Chaskin gave a lecture on 'Remaking the Inner city: Integrationist aims and ends in large-scale public housing reform'.

Chicago is currently implementing the largest and most ambitious effort in the United States to redevelop inner city neighborhoods and promote poverty deconcentration through the “Transformation” of public housing. At the center of this effort is a stated emphasis on integration—on remediating the negative effects of racial and economic segregation that was so starkly exacerbated and reproduced by past public housing policy. Entailing large-scale demolition, redevelopment, and the relocation of thousands of public housing residents, the effort seeks to reshape urban space, remake urban neighborhoods, and reverse the isolation of public housing residents through their integration into new neighborhoods and into the broader contexts, institutions, and opportunities provided by the city as a whole.  Emblematic of neoliberal urban policy, the Transformation relies to a large extent on market processes, operating through public-private partnerships to reclaim and rebuild neighborhoods while fundamentally remaking public housing’s role in responding to urban poverty. It also relies on the design principles and theoretical orientations of New Urbanism, which assumes that particular aspects of the built environment—such as scale, walkability, mixed-use, civic and transitional space—can support social objectives associated with diversity and community building, as well as maximize the use and informal surveillance of public spaces and promote care and defense of private space. This dual orientation toward community and control sits somewhat in tension, however, and is generating complex dynamics and significant contention in the mixed-income communities that are at the center of the Transformation. Based on 6 years of fieldwork at 3 mixed-income public housing redevelopment sites in Chicago, this lecture explored how design elements, regulatory practices, and social dynamics within three such communities are shaping the nature of “integration,” the interpretation and use of “public” space, and the interaction of competing visions of the “right to the city” within them.

Robert J. Chaskin is an Associate Professor and the Deputy Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the School of Social Service Administration. His research interests include community organizing and development, community social organization, comprehensive community initiatives, youth development, associations and nonprofits, philanthropy and social change, knowledge utilization and evaluation, and cross-national research. In addition to his role at SSA, he has worked with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago since 1990 where he is currently an Affiliated Scholar. At SSA, he teaches courses on social policy, community development, and program implementation and on theories and strategies of community change. His work focuses on the conceptual foundations and principal strategies of contemporary community intervention in the context of urban poverty.  Professor Chaskin received his A.M. in Anthropology and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.