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An Archaeology of Fear and Environmental Change in Philadelphia
Geoforum (2006)
  • Alec Brownlow

This paper examines how mechanisms of social control function to mediate human-environment relations and processes of environmental change in the city. Using the Fairmount Park System of Philadelphia as a case study, I argue that a history of social control mechanisms, both formal and informal, maintained viable socio-environmental urban relationships. Their decline over the last several decades has produced a legacy of fear towards the city’s natural environment that has had, and continues to have, profound socio-spatial and ecological implications. I argue that these changes have their origin in a set of racially motivated decisions made during the volatile years of the late 1960s and early 1970s and that African American women, in particular, have been impacted disproportionately by their consequences. Fear of crime in the natural environment and suspicion of environmental change have resulted in the exclusion of local women and children from what was, historically, a politically and socially viable public space. In this context, urban ecological change is locally understood as more an issue of social control issue than one of environmental concern.

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Citation Information
Brownlow, A. 2006. An Archaeology of Fear and Environmental Change in Philadelphia. Geoforum 37:227-245.