Mapping the Gentrification Frontier
The irresistible appeal in the press and the public to script gentrification as a new frontier comes from many sources. It is a highly resonant imagery bound up with economic progress and historical destiny, rugged individualism and the romance of danger, national optimism, race and class superiority. But it also comes from the geographical specificity of the frontier. The frontier of the American West was a real place; you could go there and virtually see the line, as Frederick Jackson Turner put it, between “savagery and civilization.” The geography of the frontier was cast and created as a container of all these accumulated meanings; the sharpness of the geographical frontier was an excellent conveyance for the social differences between “us” and “them,” the historical difference between past and future, the economic difference between existing market and profitable opportunity. This dense layering of meanings is expressed sharply in the shifting frontier line itself.