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Constructing the Dynamo of Dixie: Race, Urban Planning, and Cosmopolitanism in Chattanooga, Tennessee by Courtney Elizabeth Knapp

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This exciting and innovative book envisions essentially a revolution in urban planning that recognizes and attempts to correct the heritage of racial oppression in contemporary urban environments. It begins by putting forward the author’s concept of “diasporic placemaking” which attempts to marshal “everyday practices, the collaborations and conflicts through which historically uprooted and migratory populations . . . forge new communities of security and belonging out of unfamiliar, and oftentimes stratified and unequal, yet shared local environments.” It ends with an exposition of what the author calls, “participatory action research” – “a set of dynamic methods with the potential for catalyzing social change.” Chapter One explores, “Settling Chattanooga: Race, Property and Cherokee Dispossession.” The next three chapters explore the role of Black citizens and racism in the history of Chattanooga’s urban planning. Chapters 5-7 “focus on interplays between formal, institution-backed and grassroots place-making initiatives, demonstrating how creative and cultural development have been central to both Chattanooga’s mainstream revitalization agenda and grassroots communities’ efforts to demand a more just and equitable city.” “Chapters 8 and 9 discuss the action research component of this research project to illustrate how an experimental collaboration between urban planners, grassroots organizers, social workers, and public librarians helped enable and expand the politics of multiethnic diaporic placemaking in Chattanooga.”

Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018. 245 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, maps, tables, illustrations and photos. Trade paperback