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Looking Forward, Looking Back: Collective Memory and Neighborhood Identity in Two Urban Parks

Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


Collective memory and narratives of local history shape the ways people imagine a neighborhood's present situation and future development, processes that reflect tensions related to identity and struggles over resources. Using an urban culturalist lens and a focus on collective representations of place, I compare two nearby New York parks to uncover why, despite many similarities, they support different patterns of meaning making and use. Drawing on ethnographic observation, interviews, and secondary analysis, I show that multi‐vocal and fragmented contexts of collective memory help explain the uneven nature of gentrification processes, with one park serving as its cultural fulcrum while the other is left at the sidelines.