Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Keeping Knoxville Scruffy? Urban Entrepreneurialism, Creativity, and Gentrification Down the Urban Hierarchy

Academic journal article Southeastern Geographer

Keeping Knoxville Scruffy? Urban Entrepreneurialism, Creativity, and Gentrification Down the Urban Hierarchy

Article excerpt

The rise of neoliberalism has thrust cities into fierce competition for jobs, investments, and "creative" residents who many believe to be the purveyors of urban economic development. In response, city governments have devised entrepreneurial strategies aiming to establish distinct local identities through marketing their supposedly unique culture and/or history via place branding campaigns and accumulating what David Harvey calls "collective symbolic capital". However, with disproportionate scholarly attention focusing on large urban centers, little is known about how these processes have unfolded, or what they entail, in smaller cities. Adding to a growing body of literature interested in urban processes down the urban hierarchy, this research traces the historical development of Knoxville, Tennessee's gentrification efforts and examines the contradictions--and their implications--at work within the interactions between the associated processes of gentrification, urban entrepreneurialism, monopoly rent seeking, collective symbolic capital accumulation, place branding, and creative city policies.

KEY WORDS: Urban entrepreneurialism; gentrification; creative class; place branding; Knoxville

El auge del neoliberalismo ha empujado a las ciudades en una feroz competencia por puestos de trabajo, inversiones, y los residentes "creativos" que muchos creen ser los proveedores de desarrollo economico urbano. En respuesta, los gobiernos municipales han disenado estrategias empresariales con el objetivo de establecer identidades locales singulares a traves de la comercializacion de su cultura y / o la historia supuestamente unica a traves de las campanas de la marca de lugar y la acumulacion de lo que David Harvey llama "capital simbolico colectivo". Sin embargo, con la desproporcionada atencion academica centrada en los grandes centros urbanos, se sabe poco acerca de como estos procesos se han desarrollado, o lo que implican, en ciudades mas pequenas. Agregando a un creciente cuerpo de literatura interesada en los procesos urbanos por la jerarquia urbana, esta investigacion de rastrea el desarrollo historico de Knoxville, los esfuerzos de gentrificacion de Tennessee y examina las contradicciones y sus implicaciones dentro de las interacciones entre los procesos asociados de gentrificacion, el espiritu empresarial urbano, la busqueda de rentas de monopolio, la acumulacion de capital simbolico colectivo, el lugar de marca, y las politicas creativas de la ciudad.

PALABRAS CLAVE: emprendedurismo urbano; gentrificacion; clase creativa; el lugar de la marca; Knoxville


"Knoxville is fast and slow, clean and dirty, big and little, booming and decaying, provincial and cosmopolitan, beautiful and ugly. It's what makes the place interesting enough to write about."

Jack Neely (1)

Located in East Tennessee, Knoxville presents a landscape of contradictions. On the one hand, for centuries visitors have praised the picturesque geography of the city, extolling the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee River. Additionally, writers have noted the city's cosmopolitan character and unique blend of Northern industriousness and Southern charm, "the connubiated Blue and Gray" (Neely 2012). On the other hand, the city's image as a dirty Southern outpost of the industrial North has persistently counterbalanced its image of industriousness, with one commentator in the 1930s calling the city "one of the ugliest, dirtiest, stuffiest, most unsanitary towns in the United States" and a Wall Street Journal reporter in 1980 infamously describing Knoxville as a "scruffy little city" (Matheny 2012; Neely 2012).

For reasons that are not entirely clear, out of all the praise and derision over the decades, the phrase "scruffy little city" resonated among locals. Despite the disparaging intentions of the remark, many Rnoxvillians embraced their scruffiness, quite literally wearing the "scruffy" label with pride (Figure 1). …

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