The Promise and Possibilities of Cities

Cities breed wisdom and foolishness, hope and despair, wrote Charles Dickens. In this issue, we explore some of the promise and possibilities of cities, and the clashing interests and ideals they reveal.

Bill Millard explores the limits of our transportation policy, and how it reflects an urban imagination that has stalled, making car ownership seem normal and necessary. How might we break free of automobile gridlock? To explore this question, he takes us to our most densely populated city, New York.

Sociologists have long been concerned with the fate of our cities. Marcus Hunter revisits Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward to reflect upon W. E. B. Du Bois’ classic study, The Philadelphia Negro, considering how the city’s black residents have played a continuing, pivotal role. Brian McCabe invites us into the Chicago suburb of Winnetka to scrutinize the long-standing claim that homeownership leads to greater community engagement.

Rounding out the urban theme of this issue, our Viewpoints editor Syed Ali, in an Unplugged essay on his rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, admits to being part of the problem.

In other features, Nicki Cole and Keith Brown unpack the connection between fair trade ideals in the for-profit coffee industry, questioning so-called progressive consumer practices.

And in Viewpoints, six experts delve into the troubling realities and misperceptions that frame the discourse around human trafficking.

To stretch your imaginations further, Katie Acosta describes the complexities of the expanded family networks of same gender Latina couples, and James Jasper interviews sociologist Gábor Demszky, former mayor of Budapest, who took his activism to the heart of the city.

Mediations essays consider family stereotypes in sperm-donor tales in Hollywood, and racial determinism in sports coverage. Trends authors examine the unusually high rates of C-section births in U.S. hospitals, and the impact of the down-turn in public sector employment on minority workers.

In our Jargon column, Melissa Wilcox offers help to those who are still struggling with politically correct terms for gender and sexually non-conforming people, and in Pedagogies Piotr Konieczny makes the case for Wikipedia as a teaching tool that democratizes knowledge production.

Finally, we hope you’ll peruse the Books section to find out what some scholars are reading these days.