TC Sidewalks Live!: Cities v. Suburbs at the History of Hip

[Late 19th c. ad for a St. Paul  neighborhood, a "suburban location."]
Next Tuesday come on down to downtown Saint Paul for a "History of Hip" discussion featuring yours truly. (If you missed the Coney Island history chat from last year, this is the same idea.)

I'll be talking about the suburbs as both an idea and a lived reality. As an idea, the suburbs have a long history of being simply the opposite of "the city," a mirror that reflects our urban imaginary. The suburbs is the anti-city, which means that it's always a relative concept. What was "suburbia" a century ago is the city today. Fifty years ago, pretty much the same thing.

And today, Lake Elmo is kind of a "suburb", too, in that it's explicitly the "anti-Woodbury." (Even though Woodbury is the East Metro's definitive second-ring suburb.)

In reality, the suburbs are a problematic dream, isolating spaces that almost evacuate the public realm. The tantalizing promise of "the country and the city, combined" varies in practice. For some, it certainly works and you find plenty of happy people. For others, like a bad futon, you have the worst of both worlds.

Anyway, I'll be on stage at the Park Square Theater (note the venue change) to talk about suburbia in theory and practice.  I promise to be nice, but not too nice.

[Fighting affordable housing in the suburbs.]
For example, while it's possible to talk about suburbia without talking about race, that would be a huge mistake. Suburbs were explicitly predicated on racial exclusion, helped along by the Federal Government's racist redlining practices that began in the 1930s under FDR. I'd even argue that "whiteness" is, in many ways, synonymous with the suburban landscape. And without the historical legacy of racist real estate practices, the huge racial gap in places like the Twin Cities would be far smaller. And without the current suburban fragmentation, that inequality would be far harder to maintain.

But that's starting to change as some suburbs get more diverse. And that's why I'll be excited to talk to two people from Hopkins, Dominique Pierre-Toussaint and Anne Buck, about how that historic suburban city is changing.

[The redlining map on display at the History Center suburbia exhibit.]

What: Presentations and chatting about the history of Twin Cities' suburbia
Where: Park Square Theater, downtown Saint Paul
When: Tuesday 2/9 at 6:30 pm
Who: You if you buy a ticket
Why: Because of the History Center's Suburbia exhibit

Bonus: Here's a short suburbia reading list:

... and then there's loads of cultural stuff too, like the Organization Man or the Feminine Mystique.

Best suburbia films? God there are so many. I'm partial to Welcome to the Dollhouse, Clerks, Rebel Without a Cause, or even Edward Scissorhands.

To have your mind blown, check out the "suburbia" section of the Prelinger Archive. One particular favorite is "The Wonders of Asbestos."

[The Quiet Revolution, c. 1956.]

No comments: