On October 12 I presented a paper at the Association for Clinical and Applied Sociology. The title of the paper was “Teaching gentrification through engaged learning and scholarship.” The purpose of the presentation was to demonstrate that a subject such as gentrification is best taught by actually engaging students with gentrifying communities. Gentrification, as the authors of “Gentrifiers" point out is both a concept and a cause. Gentrification as a cause is easily seen by visiting Paseo Boricua and witnessing first hand the Puerto Rican flags planted at both ends of Paseo Boricua as a deterrent to the gentrification just east in Wicker Park, formerly a Puerto Rican neighborhood.
I also outlined the mural research project which students complete as a part of the Directed Study class. Murals are signifies of community identity and students work in groups to research the history and community of a chosen mural. They are also required to research the demographics of the community of the mural and changes that have occurred since the mural was completed. These changes include displacement and development, two key components of gentrification.
As I stated in my presentation the object of the assignment is not to take a position on gentrification as a cause but rather to enlighten students and give them tools for decision making and involvement as they engage with gentrifying communities outside of the class. As the authors of “Gentrifiers" point out the elephant in the room for sociologists studying gentrification is that they are often gentrifiers themselves. The same could be said of students in my class as they make decisions about where to spend their time in the city as well as where to potentially move if they choose to return to Chicago after graduation.