Urban Readers Series: Gordon C. C. Douglas - "The Help-Yourself City" - Theaster Gates

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Gordon C. C. Douglas

The Urban Readers Series presents Gordon C. C. Douglas on The Help-Yourself City: Legitimacy and Inequality in DIY Urbanism. He will be joined in conversation by Theaster Gates.

Presented in partnership with UChicago Urban and the UChicago Program on the Global Environment

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested, not required)

About the book: When cash-strapped local governments fail to provide adequate services, and planning policies prioritize economic development over community needs, how do concerned citizens respond? In The Help-Yourself City, Gordon Douglas looks closely at the people who take urban planning into their own hands, dubbed "do-it-yourself urban design." Through in-depth interviews with do-it-yourselfers, professional planners, and community members, as well as participant observation, photography, media, and policy analysis, Douglas demonstrates that many do-it-yourselfers employ professional techniques and expertise to enable and inspire their actions. He argues that many unauthorized interventions are created from a position of privilege, where legal repercussions are unlikely, while people from disadvantaged communities where improvements may be most needed face disincentives to taking such actions themselves. Presenting a needed social analysis of this growing trend, while connecting it to debates on inequality, citizenship, and contemporary urban political economy, The Help-Yourself City tells a street-level story of people's relationships to their surroundings and the individualization of democratic responsibility.

About the author: Gordon Douglas is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at San José State University, where he is also Director of the Institute for Metropolitan Studies. A multidisciplinary urbanist, Gordon's research concerns local identity, neighborhood change, peoples' relationships to their physical surroundings, and social and spatial inequality in urban development. His writing and photography have appeared in City & Community, the Journal of Urban Design, Urban Studies, and other journals, as well as a number of magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Prior to joining San José State, Gordon held a postdoc at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, of which he also served for a year as director. He received his PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago in 2014.

About the interlocutor: Theaster Gates (Chicago, 1973, where he lives and works) has developed an expanded artistic practice that includes space development, object making, performance and critical engagement with many publics. Gates transforms spaces, institutions, traditions, and perceptions. His training as an urban planner and sculptor, and subsequent time spent studying clay, has given him keen awareness of the poetics of production and systems of organizing. Playing with these poetic and systematic interests, Gates has assembled gospel choirs, formed temporary unions, and used systems of mass production as a way of underscoring the need that industry has for the body.

About the Urban Readers Series: In collaboration with the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, UChicago Urban has launched the Urban Readers Series, an author-centered series of readings and conversations at the Seminary Co-op.  At Urban Readers, people from all over Chicago can hear from the university’s scholars and connect with one another over urban issues, histories and futures.  All books in the series are written by UChicago’s faculty, alumni, and affiliates.

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago 60637