Transformation Without Representation : Gentrification in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.
Garcia, Guillermo Dominguez
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This paper looks at the forces behind gentrification and the drawbacks that it causes for longtime residents in the demographically diverse neighborhood of Columbia Heights. Typically, studies on gentrification focus either on the real-estate side of neighborhood change or on physical displacement. However, through ethnographic research, data collection, and literature, the author provides a holistic approach to gentrification that also encompasses the political and cultural displacement of longtime residents that have not been physically displaced. The author finds that in Columbia Heights, the history of political disenfranchisement in Washington, D.C, coupled with the "blank-slate" approach that gentrifiers adopt, the federal and local forces that incite gentrification, and the processes of cultural and political displacement, alienate many longtime residents. Finally, he finds that Habermas' theories of the "colonization of the lifeworld," of "one-sided rationality," and of "systemically distorted communication" provide a reflective account of gentrification that can aid policymakers craft inclusive policies.