Using MacArthur fellow Camilo José Vergara’s intimate street photographs of Camden, New Jersey as reference points, the essays in this collection analyze these images within the context of troubled histories and misguided policies that have exacerbated racial and economic inequalities.
Rather than blaming Camden’s residents for the blighted urban landscape, the multidisciplinary array of scholars contributing to this guide reveal the oppressive structures and institutional failures that have led the city to this condition. Tackling topics such as race and law enforcement, gentrification, food deserts, urban aesthetics, credit markets, health care, childcare, and schooling, the contributors challenge conventional thinking about what we should observe when looking at neighborhoods.
Vacant lots. Historic buildings overgrown with weeds. Walls and alleyways covered with graffiti. These are sights associated with countless inner-city neighborhoods in America, and yet many viewers have trouble getting beyond the surface of such images, whether they are denigrating them as signs of a dangerous ghetto or romanticizing them as traits of a beautiful ruined landscape. The Street: A Field Guide to Inequality provides readers with the critical tools they need to go beyond such superficial interpretations of urban decay.