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How community influences contribute to civic and political engagement in a city undergoing rapid change

Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City

Somerville, MA

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Susan A. Ostrander

"With Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City, Susan Ostrander probes important questions about the nature of citizenship, the dynamics of immigrant incorporation, and the role of voluntary associations in local democracy. By providing a grounded, nuanced examination of community action in Somerville, Massachusetts, she surfaces both conditions that support and key barriers to promoting effective civic and political engagement and vibrant, inclusive democratic practice at the local level. This book is an important and welcome contribution to current debates about civic engagement, urban governance, and local democracy."
Robert Chaskin, Associate Professor and Deputy Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the University of Chicago

Overcoming a past of deteriorating homes, empty storefronts, and corrupt city administrations, Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, today proudly defines itself as a longtime immigrant city, a historically blue collar town, and a hip new urban center with a progressive city government.

In Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City, Susan Ostrander shows how beneath current high levels of engagement by Somerville residents lies a struggle about who should be the city's elected leaders and how they should conduct the city's affairs. It is a struggle waged between diverse residents—relatively new immigrants and a new middle class—trying to gain a foothold in democratic participation, and the city's political "old guard."

Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City informs current debates about the place of immigrants in civic and political life, and the role of voluntary associations in local politics and government. In the process, Ostrander provides useful lessons for many midsize urban communities.

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Excerpt

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"Clearly and effectively written, Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City lets its subjects speak, and they do so with passion and insight. Ostrander gives us an excellent book, well documented and comprehensive. She tells an uplifting and compelling urban story of civic struggle and hope."
Jon Van Til, Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Community Planning at Rutgers University, Camden

"[A] valuable contribution to our understanding of the struggles newcomers face in the process of gaining full community membership.... Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City is a fascinating book that illustrates the life world of three different groups, who all struggle with ongoing changes in their city. Thanks to this in-depth study the reader gets to know the city and its residents through the rich qualitative data and the excerpts that Ostrander provides throughout the text. The book is suitable for researchers and policy makers as well as community members with an interest in debates about the role of immigrants and other newcomers and their participation in urban civic and political life. It furthermore provides in-depth insights into the influence of voluntary associations in creating a space for immigrants’ voices in a diverse and changing city."
Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations

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Contents

Acknowledgments

1. Introduction
2. Overview of History, Demographics, and Politics
3. Major Redevelopment, Community Involvement, and Shared Governance
4. Old and New Immigrant Experiences, Today and Yesterday
5. Immigrant Civic and Political Engagement
6. Gentrification, Resident Displacement, and a Common Vision for the City’s Future
7. Extending Social Citizenship, Remaking City Governance

Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Susan A. Ostrander is Professor of Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences, and Professor, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. She is author of Money for Change: Social Movement Philanthropy at Haymarket People's Fund and Women of the Upper Class (both Temple).

Subject Categories

Urban Studies
Sociology
Immigration Studies

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