Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies

Major Professor

Renia Ehrenfeucht

Second Advisor

Robert Collins

Third Advisor

Patrick Haughey

Fourth Advisor

Marla Nelson


To understand the complexities involved with neighboring in public/private mixed-income communities, I conducted an ethnographic study of a HOPE VI site in a gentrifying neighborhood in New Orleans. Data was collected through 48 interviews, observation, mental maps, and casual encounters with residents living in the predominantly African American redeveloped St. Thomas Housing Development – renamed River Garden. I analyzed residents’ neighboring processes and how they socially constructed space, leading to the identification of several phenomena that shaped neighbor interaction in River Garden. As with previous HOPE VI neighborhood studies, within-group interaction was prevalent while cross-class interaction remained limited. Mechanisms that were intended to facilitate cross-class interaction were neutralized by the exertion of social control. Both limited mobility and neighborhood choice were factors that shaped residents’ perceptions of the neighborhood and motivated residents to either participate in the neighborhood as engaged residents or live as guarded residents dominated by constraints. I delineate the attributes of engaged residents to position neighborhood attachment as an important variable for neighbor interaction. Overall, the evidence illuminates class divisiveness among African American neighbors and demonstrates how the struggle for contested space creates a neighborhood filled with tension.


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