Organizing diversity: Scales of demographic change and neighborhood organizing in St Paul, MN
Neighborhood involvement in urban governance remains a pressing goal in an era of globalization. Cities have instituted a variety of structures to facilitate this involvement, including quasi-formal neighborhood or district councils. At the same time, urban populations are changing rapidly because of multiple dynamics operating at multiple scales. Immigration, for example, continues to transform inner-city neighborhoods despite the emergence of suburban immigrant enclaves. Existing research inadequately addresses the interaction between efforts to organize neighborhood political involvement and the dynamic nature of urban populations. We examine St Paul, Minnesota - a locale with a well-established neighborhood district-council system and a vibrant and rapidly growing immigrant community. Indeed, immigrants from Southeast Asia and East Africa are moving into neighborhoods that up until the early 1990s were predominantly white. Using a multimethod empirical analysis, we argue that the district-council system, while recognizing and empowering local-level organization, fails to provide adequate resources for neighborhoods to address social dynamics that operate at much broader scales. An index of ethnic and racial diversity computed with census data shows that St Paul experienced a significant overall increase in diversity during the 1990s. Although inner-city neighborhoods remained the most diverse, residential areas developed after World War 2 also diversified considerably. Interviews with neighborhood organizers based in part on tabular and cartographic displays revealed a wide variety of strategies and responses to changing ethnic and racial diversity. Predominant, however, was a mismatch between the scale at which demographic change occurs, and the scale of 'neighborhood' action embedded within the district-council system.
Environment and Planning A
Martin, Deborah G. and Holloway, Steven R., "Organizing diversity: Scales of demographic change and neighborhood organizing in St Paul, MN" (2005). Geography. 373.