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Richard Price’s Lower East Side: Cops, culture and gentrification

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This article interrogates the dominant cultural narrative of gentrification and its deployment and resignification by Richard Price’s novel Lush Life (2008), set in the historic immigrant neighbourhood of the Lower East Side in 2002. Drawing upon theories of urban development and urban history by Neil Smith, Liz Bondi, Christopher Mele and Richard Lloyd, this article argues that Lush Life (2008) dramatizes the violent underpinnings of gentrification. At the same time, Price’s text ironizes contemporary urban redevelopment strategies that resignify and market gritty subcultural and ethnic differences as style in the service of real-estate speculation. What Price’s novel endeavours to show is that in the midst of disorienting social and physical change, urban subjects construct psychogeographies that reinforce personal and social boundaries. They gravitate towards residual signifiers of history and ethnic identification, which capitalist development itself unearths and reanimates, believing they might hold the key to establishing a stabilizing geographical rootedness at the very moment that dominant cultural and physical meanings of place are being upended.
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Keywords: Lower East Side; Lush Life; New York; Richard Price; crime fiction; gentrification; urban development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McGill University

Publication date: 01 June 2014

More about this publication?
  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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