The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research

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2006 Tom Slater / International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Recent years have seen an extraordinary resurgence of interest in the process of gentrification, accompanied by a surge of articles published on the topic. This article looks at some recent literature — both scholarly and popular — and considers the reasons why the often highly critical perspectives on gentrification that we saw in earlier decades have dwindled. Whilst a number of reasons could be put forward, three in particular are discussed. First, the resilience of theoretical and ideological squabbles over the causes of gentrification, at the expense of examining its effects; second, the demise of displacement as a defining feature of the process and as a research question; and third, the pervasive influence of neoliberal urban policies of ‘social mix’ in central city neighbourhoods. It is argued that the ‘eviction’ of critical perspectives from a field in which they were once plentiful has serious implications for those at risk from gentrification, and that reclaiming the term from those who have sugarcoated what was not so long ago a ‘dirty word’ (Smith, 1996) is essential if political challenges to the process can be effective.