On September 11, 2018, I provided comments to attendees at the HumanitiesDC showcase of the projects that had examined Washington DC in 1968. Based on my work with the DC Living Heritage Network, I suggested a “Gentrification Narratives Framework” to help us think about what a cultural narrative for DC might look like as we look forward beyond 2018. Here’s an outline of my suggestions.
1. Narratives of Disorientation:
With the changing physical and demographic landscapes, areas of our city are no longer recognizable.
Previous points of visual orientation no longer exist.
New spaces and functions leave us wondering where we are.
Residents comment constantly they no longer recognize various parts of the city and the city overall.
Some are repulsed by the change; others embrace it.
2. Narratives of Loss:
Residents see the communities they know and love disappearing.
They compare “what is” to “what was.”
They share remembrances about “a life that has been.”
3. Narratives of Preservation:
The narratives of loss of and of disorientation have increased interest in “preservation.”
“Physical Preservation” is one form this narrative takes.
The preservation narrative recognizes our need to document and protect places and spaces.
“Preservation of Stories” is another form this narrative takes.
The preservation narrative articulates the need to document and preserve individual and community stories and memories.
4. Narratives of Opportunity:
The previous three narratives help us look back.
They help us expand our past and current understanding.
They inform how we might approach the future.
The Narrative of Opportunity looks forward and identifies creative cultural possibilities of an emerging New DC and outlines how to realize those possibilities.