Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
This study examines how people construct and negotiate social identity in neighborhood associations. It builds on previous social identity research by examining how identity construction is important in regards to political behavior, but in an unexamined context - that of neighborhood associations. Neighborhood associations are groups that are formally organized and frequently interact with city employees and elected officials to obtain and/or improve city services in that geographic location. This study is informed by interpretive approaches to social science inquiry. My findings are based on three sources: participant observations of neighborhood association meetings in the City of St. Louis, Missouri during 2008-2009; 31 semi-structured interviews with neighborhood association leaders, members, and city employees during the spring and summer of 2009; and document analysis of association materials such as meeting agendas and by-laws. Neighborhood associations can be both a source of empowerment and exclusion. Needless to say, people negotiate multiple social identities based on race, gender, and class. In general, gendered identities were activated far less than racial or nationalistic identities, and when they were activated, it was in the context of a private interview not a public meeting. In the best situations, people were able to form new collective identities and bridge differences across diverse backgrounds
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