front cover of Gangs, Politics and Dignity in Cape Town
Gangs, Politics and Dignity in Cape Town
Steffen Jensen
University of Chicago Press, 2008

After nearly fifty years of rigid segregation, the demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the African National Congress’s relatively peaceful assumption of power in 1994 were hailed as a miracle. But a few years into the transition, this miracle appeared increasingly threatened by crime and violence. In this compelling ethnography, Steffen Jensen focuses on a single township in Cape Town in order to explore how residents have negotiated the intersecting forces of political change and violent crime.

Jensen spent years closely observing the actions of residents both male and female, young and old, as well as gang members, police officers, and local government officials. The poisonous legacy of apartheid also comes under Jensen’s lens, as he examines the lasting effects that an official policy of racist stereotyping has had on the residents’ conceptions of themselves and their neighbors. While Gangs, Politics, and Dignity in Cape Town brims with insights into ongoing debates over policing, gangs, and local politics, Jensen also shows how people in the townships maintain their dignity in the face of hardship and danger.


front cover of A Good Reputation
A Good Reputation
How Residents Fight for an American Barrio
Elizabeth Korver-Glenn and Sarah Mayorga
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A historic Houston barrio provides an illuminating lens on neighborhood reputation.
Neighborhoods have the power to form significant parts of our worlds and identities. A neighborhood’s reputation, however, doesn’t always match up to how residents see themselves or wish to be seen. The distance between residents’ desires and their environment can profoundly shape neighborhood life.  
In A Good Reputation, sociologists Elizabeth Korver-Glenn and Sarah Mayorga delve into the development and transformation of the reputation of Northside, a predominantly Latinx barrio in Houston. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research and in-depth interviews with residents, developers, and other neighborhood stakeholders, the authors show that people’s perceptions of their neighborhoods are essential to understanding urban inequality and poverty. Korver-Glenn and Mayorga’s empirically detailed account of disputes over neighborhood reputation helps readers understand the complexity of high-poverty urban neighborhoods, demonstrating that gentrification is a more complicated and irregular process than existing accounts of urban inequality would suggest. Offering insightful theoretical analysis and compelling narrative threads from understudied communities, A Good Reputation will yield insights for scholars of race and ethnicity, urban planning, and beyond.

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