Theses Master's

Wake Up All the Builders: Fatigue and Utopia In Washington Heights and Inwood

Dunston, HK

This study explores community leaders’ perceptions of the future of the New York City neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood. Taking an ethnographic approach, the author conducted in-depth interviews with community leaders about neighborhood challenges and potential futures. In addition, the author observed neighborhood events and Community Board meetings over two years from 2020 to 2022, while also reviewing historical analysis and social media discussions. The study asked informants to imagine utopian and dystopian futures of Washington Heights in 2050, eliciting their aspirations, fears, and expectations for the neighborhood.

Through these discussions, the author developed an ethnography of the future, illustrating informants’ expansive visions for more just societies built on care, equity, and the celebration of new ways of being in the world, where complex biodiversity ensures healthy soil and productive growth, both literally and metaphorically. However, this research also makes clear that future visions cannot be understood independently of the troubled history of the neighborhood as well as its challenging present, which has been steeped in the fear and fatigue of the Covid-19 era. Acting on the collective aspirations for the neighborhood in 2050 requires imagining the repair of injustices from the past, identifying the traces of repair that exist in the present, and carrying forward those traces toward an emancipatory future.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sarmiento, Hugo
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2022