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Gilfoyle tackles the evolution of urban historiography in his article titled “White Cities, Linguistic Turns, and Disneylands: The New Paradigms of Urban History”. The introduction is comprised of defining “urban” and is followed by discussion of races, genders, and cultures in these urban areas. Focusing on the interactions between the specifics of the city and the individual, an interesting point that Gilfoyle makes is that by studying case studies of individuals and built environments, instead of finding a theme or pattern amongst the group, the case studies highlight the intricacies and uniqueness of urban cultures. – Kimberly E.

Urban Cultures

Gilfoyle looks at how migrant groups shape the environment of the cities that they live in early on in the reading. Neighborhoods could be classified by the types of people who inhabited them. Fashion in cities displays the status of the people who live in it and the culture of the area. This follows the anthropological theory of “discourse of the street” which shows how rituals and culture of people can affect the built environment that they occur in or around them. The internal complexity of these spaces creates a diverse and unique atmosphere in city spaces. – Ellora L.

According to Timothy J. Gilfoyle, “labor historians frequently locate the source of class consciousness in the workplace.” This could be the grouping together of people based on a place that they frequent, such as a saloon, to identify their class or occupation. Because working class men would identify with saloons, street gangs, and through neighborhood networks, elite men started to physically separate themselves from these places and began creating their own spaces. He refers to these spaces as “patches of elegance,” which they created by remodeling their neighborhoods. Changes were as simple as installing fencing, renaming streets, and planting trees, but they were effective in distinguishing elite neighborhoods from the working class neighborhoods. It was so effective that the geography started to represent the social superiority and wealth of the elite. –Gianna

In the article, “White Cities, Linguistic Turns, and Disneylands: The New Paradigms of Urban History” Timothy J. Gilfoyle discusses multiple aspects of urban development, including a discussion about gender studies and the complications the subject had on industrial capitalism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He discusses the emphasis on the assessment of women’s behaviors and status during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and how despite their autonomy in their public lives, they were still divided by many identities in which they had been placed. He further connects this with the lack of discussion by urban reformers and public authorities concerning the economic vulnerabilities that single women faced and simply turned it into a moral crisis that they thought would be solved by aggressive intervention. They simply placed the blame on women’s sexuality and assumed promiscuity of single women, and essentially blamed women for their economic failures rather than delving into the real problem and attempting to help them. Gilfoyle further elaborates on and gender studies when he refers to housing and connects these ideas together when he begins discussing the residential designs and how they represented ideologies of gender, class, and race within cities. - Devin Wright

Gilfoyle touches on the significance of the rise of the automobile in the evolution of urban life, and its influence on public spaces. Automobiles altered the built environment in new ways, which in turn impacted the social fabric of the city. Streets that were once a hotbed of social activities for various groups became dominated by cars instead.

The changes developed within cities such as the automobile would not have been possible without the technologies available within urban life. Gilfoyle explores this and the ways technology has impacted life. Deborah Hunnel

Regions and Suburbs

Gilfoyle also focuses on how cities formed and their impacts in different portions of the United States. The first focus is on the cities of the West Coast, specifically California, and how over time this area became the main location for major urban centers. The West was more urban, 30 percent, than the rest of the United States, 28 percent, in 1880. Southern United States urbanization was and continues to be, different from any other areas in the nation in terms of growth. Even into the twenty-first century, many Southern cities remain similar to antebellum plantations and city construction in terms of layout. The formation of suburbs was somewhat influenced by the cultural favoring of rural living. The creation of a suburb created a space the satisfied the cultural rural living preference with the societal needs of living by and often working in a city. ~Morgan G.

White Cities Linguistics Turns and Disneyland’s: The New Paradigms of Urban History by Timothy J. Gilfoyle goes over how urban environments were viewed. Gilfoyle did this by providing how scholars defined “urban” and “city”. Urban being what happened in the city and the city being defined as the place. Urban areas become known as a place of having leisure time after work for the people working and living in the city. When suburban areas started to develop changes in the urban areas happen with the populations changing. In 1950-1965 the nonwhite population went up in the cities and the white populations in the suburbs went up. Problems arising in urban areas was seen as physical problems instead of and social problems. This can be seen with the blight planners who addressed problems of poverty and inequality as physical and not as a social problem. - Jasmine Williams

In “White Cities, Linguistic Turns, and Disneylands: The New Paradigms of Urban History,” Gilfoyle would want to dive in deeper into what defines as a “region” and “suburbs” are and how they affect modern life in America. Americans would shift from wanting to live in the Midwest and East Coast to wanting to move further out West because of the economic shift that would occur after the postwar region contained communities were detailed as “spread cities,” “technoburbs,” or “post-suburbs.” This would make it seem not like what a regular city or suburb would be but it was actually both aspects involved in it, causing a new approach to what defines cities with keeping in mind that we need to redefine the field to a more “metropolitan history.”

Doing so would cause regional patterns to change with urbanization that would have similar attributes to the South. David Goldfield would want to make sure that southern cities were being thought of as “urbanization without cities.” There were a lot more plantations in southern cities because they wanted to be closer to the idea of what they were doing for the past four centuries, even though that was completely different to what the northern cities were doing. Many thought that it was “Modernizing without northernizing,” for the south even though others disagreed and thought that post-Civil War South wanted to be identical to what the North had with a new economic view. – Hunter Dykhuis

Politics and Planning

Previously the local government of a mayor in a small area was far more influential that a state or larger government institution. This made Americans spread out and decentralized. As Gilfoyle says, having a new municipal interest and the need for stronger infrastructures and services creates a larger need for having a stronger leading force to hold it together, in comparison to the power previously held by local elites (Southern plantation owners would be the example I believe he is comparing this to.) (Daniel Noel)


The theories and ideas of Mumford have become less favorable to urbanists as they learn how esoteric and messy the connection between culture, politics, and technology. Similarly the ideas of Sam Bass Warner, Jr.'s “Scaffolding” talking point because of his presumptions of how a city should be. Gilfoyle notes on how difficult and fruitless it is to simply try and call the history of cities an urban culture. He says this because there are a slew of new cultural paradigms have influenced quite a lot, which further confuses the issue. (Daniel Noel

gilfoyle_white_cities_linguistic_turns_and_disneylands.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/18 17:02 by dnoel2