Sharon Cornelissen, *19

The Unequal Neighborhood: Hardship and Privilege in Northwest Detroit

Sharon Cornelissen is a Ph.D. Candidate at Princeton University and expects to defend her dissertation in July 2019. Her research interests include urban sociology, social inequality, race and ethnicity, culture, environmental sociology, sociological theory, and qualitative methods.

She is currently working on a book manuscript based on three years of dissertation fieldwork, preliminary entitled The Urban Homesteaders: Hardship and Privilege in Northwest Detroit. This book will examine how residents differently experienced Brightmoor, a depopulated poor Detroit neighborhood. In 2015 half the land was vacant there and every third house stood empty. Residents saw wild deer as often as they heard gunshots. Yet, in the last decade white urban farmers had moved in next to black and white Detroiters. They bought dirt-cheap homes and started gardens on vacant lots.

The Urban Homesteaders shows what happened when white newcomers moved into one of the most depopulated urban neighborhoods in the United States. It offers us new ways to think about place inequality. Urban scholars – from those studying neighborhood effects to gentrification – have usually emphasized inequalities between neighborhoods. However, neighborhoods have also always housed inequalities within. How do inequalities live in the same places? This book will address this question, by showing how and why residents experienced Brightmoor differently. It theorizes "experienced places" as underappreciated dimension of the unequal city.

This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the Princeton Program in American Studies. It also received the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship from Princeton University.

Selected Publications

Cornelissen, Sharon. 2016. “Turning Distaste into Taste: Context-Specific Habitus and the Practical Congruity of Culture.” Theory and Society 46(6): 501-29.

Manuscripts in Progress

Cornelissen, Sharon. The Urban Homesteaders: Hardship and Privilege in Northwest Detroit (book manuscript)

Cornelissen, Sharon. Place of Vigilance or Place-to-be: Negotiating Place Through Styles of Street Life in Northwest Detroit.

Cornelissen, Sharon. National Politics, Neighborly Politics: Ethno-Nationalism and Racism in Detroit under Trump.

Cornelissen, Sharon. From Urban Renewal to Land Banking: The History of Urban Blight as a Technocratic Category.

Cornelissen, Sharon and Paul DiMaggio (equal co-authors). On Cultural Coherence.

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