Elijah Anderson’s “Iconic Ghetto” as Transatlantic Template? Problematic Traveling Imaginaries, Future Scripts, and Postindustrial Ruhr Cities

Chris Katzenberg


This article explores the presence and function of American templates of the stereotypical “ghetto” in the transnational urban imagination, taking the cities of the German Ruhr region as an example. I argue that this space is significantly influenced by the model of American postindustrialcities, where many of the traveling imaginaries of urban problems that have taken hold in former industrial cities in Europe seem to originate. In a first step, I inquire into the workings of the problematic template ofthe “iconic ghetto,” a concept I borrow from Elijah Anderson and extend transnationally, tracing its influence on urban development narratives in the Ruhr. In a second step, I discuss how social-educational reform initiatives respond to and intervene in such problematic imaginaries in their work. I assert that their activities aim to rewrite or “re-script” the prevalent narratives of this European postindustrial region, which are all too often negative. The alternative development narratives, or “scripts,”these reformers construct and propagate instead imagine cities of the future in a positive light, envisioning how inequality and segregation can be replaced by equality and social inclusion.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5283/copas.335


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