Listening for Home: Urban Women’s Experiences in an Uprooted Community

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Abstract

The present study is based on interviews conducted in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is an African American neighborhood in the geographical heart of the city. These interviews were conducted as part of an undergraduate community-engaged learning course, and are part of ongoing efforts to address the social and economic devastation wrought by urban development in the 1950s and 1960s. Currently, these efforts take the form of trauma-informed community development projects, with a focus on exploring the experiences of inhabitants who have survived social, physical, and economic neighborhood strain brought upon them by urban renewal projects. In this article, we analyzed interviews with 8 female participants who have been lifelong residents of the Hill District. We used the Listening Guide, a feminist method that highlights the multivocal nature of individual speech, to analyze the interviews. In particular, we listened for how our participants spoke about “home,” and we noticed that they expressed both belonging to and alienation from the Hill District. By using these 2 voices (belonging and alienation) as guides, we identified themes within the interviews, and we argue that any redevelopment efforts must start with an understanding of how residents already experience their home community.

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