Handbook of Gentrification Studies, edited by Loretta Lees, with Martin Phillips. (Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018)
Reviewed by: Dennis E. Gale, Stanford University
Editor Loretta Lees (aided by Martin Phillips) has engaged 32 scholarly interlocutors from multiple disciplines to present an impressive range of planetary perspectives on gentrification. The result is a rabble of voices with enough variation among them to please the orthodox and the heterodox alike. The book is divided into five sections: Gentrification Theory, Core Concepts in Gentrification, Social Cleavages in Addition to Class in Gentrification, Types of Gentrification, and Living and Resisting Gentrification. Woven through much of the text are attempts to “de-center” scholarship on gentrification from its northern hemispheric roots to a broader global perspective universalizing its nationalistic and cultural particularities. For example, as Lees points out, even well-worn terms such as neoliberalism do not necessarily translate in southern hemispheric countries unfamiliar with its generic roots –– the liberal state.
Among its numerous inquiries, the book contains nine articles analyzing various subcategories of gentrification: slum-, new-build-, social housing-, tourism-, retail-, “gentle”-, environmental-, artists/cultural-, and wilderness-gentrification. Some readers may question whether and to what extent the G-word should be contorted to fit so many different contexts. Regardless, whatever the nomenclature employed, these articles will offer interesting insights on the larger realm of planetary urban development and social change. I found the section on social cleavages other than class to be especially illuminating. Articles on gentrification and non-normative sexualities, age and life course, gender, and ethnicity do much to concretize the sometimes elusive and ethereal trench-work appearing in the book.
While not bereft of empirical research on specific gentrification neighborhoods, the Handbook leans toward extensive literature reviews, some of which are punctuated with brief real-world examples of gentrification-related observations. Aside from its possibilities as a class text, it could serve as a convenient desk reference for probing the rarified atmosphere composed by the phenomenon’s many dimensions and subgenres. Taken together, its contents pose a rich dialectic from which readers may harvest a bounty of insights.