Article written by 2011 DPDF Provincializing Global Urbanism: Toward Multiple Urban Futures Research Director Ananya Roy, 2011 DPDF Provincializing Global Urbanism: Toward Multiple Urban Futures Fellow Stuart Schrader, and Emma Shaw Crane:
This essay provides an alternative history of U.S. community development by establishing a global context for such policies. It demonstrates that the emergence of poverty as a domestic and international public policy issue in the 1960s was closely linked to anxieties about racialized violence in American cities and wars of insurgency in the global South. In doing so, it traces how programs of pacification, both at home and abroad, sought to deal with delinquent youth, to marry policing to economic development, and to grapple with poverty and insecurity. Such a global view provides new insights into American-style community development, specifically how a double system of pacification was an integral part of this approach to urban policy. By focusing on an important precursor to the War on Poverty, the Ford Foundation’s Gray Areas program, the essay also highlights how the problem of poverty came to be territorialized not only in the city but specifically in a unit understood as community. However, “community” was a space of contestation. Community action was rapidly transformed into programs of community development, especially those animated by the ethos of self-help. But, in cities like Oakland, the first of the Gray Areas cities, and described as a “racial tinderbox,” the bureaucracy of poverty became the platform for radical visions and practices of self-determination, notably by the Black Panther Party. Understood in this way, community is a key site for the analysis of liberal government. In particular, urban policy mandates such as community development and community participation reveal the enduring contradictions between ideologies of self-help and struggles for self-determination.