Posts Tagged ‘City of Rhetoric’

Sociospatial Environment

Rhetorical Analysis #4: Fleming Chapter 8

Throughout the book, author David Fleming constantly argues that our built environment, along with civic public discourse and education, continually shape who we are. In this specific chapter, the first of section 3, Fleming examines the scenes he has talked about in previous chapters such as the ghettos, white suburbs, and mixed-income neighborhoods, as well as the overall built environment in the Chicago area.

As Fleming re-caps what he has mentioned in the past 7 chapters, he concludes that “we have failed, in other words, to help our young people appreciate and deal with the inevitable conflicts of living together in concrete space with people unlike themselves” (180). Referring to the teaching of politics in our country, teenagers are the most susceptible to learn and change our future than any other generation is at this point in time. And for Fleming to say our country, as a whole, has failed to teach the millennial generation life, growing up, and all the baggage that comes with it puts our future in a hold. And this is where the term commonplace comes to play because it could create a balance of a more unified and amalgamated public sphere.

By now it is obvious that Chicago is not the only one at fault here for segregating their people by race and class. The public housing was meant to provide shelter to the poor but instead completely separated the city. Chicago is not the only city that has done this, in fact, “Americans have not done a good job of making space for diverse peoples to come together, openly and fairly, to determine together their shared destiny” (181).Because of the economic divide in our country, it has become difficult for people of different classes to relate, especially on a political level. And it’s not the low-income citizens living there, it’s their environment. It wasn’t a voluntary choice to grow up poor or to be uneducated because the school system is bad, it’s the poor environment in which they grew up. Where they were constantly in fear because of crime, violence, and drugs that surrounded them. Which lead to poor education systems and joblessness. Their environment was toxic, sucking them in, and allowing them no opportunity to escape.

The one exception was 1230 North Burling Street located in Cabrini Green. The citizens created their own rules, security, and jobs in hope for a brighter future. They were successful for a period of time but “the only way to build a self-governing community in our society, a culture of argument that brings people together to work actively and discursively on common projects, is to make sure that they are all relatively similar in background and goals” (183). Because of America’s past, similar background means similar class which means similar race. The continuation of sticking with similarity will only create disconnections with the rest of the world. Diverse communities learn from one another and therefore grow from one another.

Work Cited

Fleming, David. “City of Rhetoric” SUNY Press, 2009.

1340 S St NW

Analytical Essay 1:

Place, space, and everything in between. As society progresses through technology, more people are becoming detached from the true meaning of life. A walk outside has turned into heads down on cell phones, a coffee date has become a conference call, and a person working in a factory or office has been replaced by machines. Many can’t deny that technology is taking over our lives, but is it for the worse or better?

Our built environment shapes who we are and often times it goes by unnoticed. But aside from technology, human behavior and human choice are defined by our location and the area we grew up in. The layout of a city is strategically planned before beginning construction. In most cities there is a good side and a bad side of town, but what causes those divides. As Sarah Schindler says, “cities were constructed in ways-including by erecting physical barriers-that made it very difficult for people from one side of town to access the other side” (1942). Transportation in a city not only separates people, but excludes. The wealthier side of a city will consist of high end restaurants and stores, which attract upper class citizens to move, live, and stay in within that area. While the other, poorer side of town, will have older homes, more run down buildings, discount stores, and very few future construction plans. With that, the cycle of poverty continues for that part of town because there are few job opportunities or job openings and no easy access to the improved, more sophisticated part of town. Sometimes, when all else fails, drugs and crime can appear in more run down cities and therefore create an even harder escape. The vicious cycle of drugs leads to violence, gang affiliation, and poor motivation to break away. When surrounded with illegal substances that are highly addictive, people’s brain chemistry changes and they will do anything to get their hands on the drugs. Education and a successful future for those involved in illegal activity is hard to obtain. But zooming out of the picture, this hypothetical situation was created because of the way a city was built.

My Complex Local System is the building where the drugs were  hidden from S Street Rising. This book, written by Ruben Castaneda, is about the DC drug epidemic in the 1980’s and specifically how we was involved. After visiting my cite, I noticed how that the building, 1340 S Street NW, has remained the same while everything around it is changing. The building, built in the 1977, has almost an eerie feeling to it, maybe because I knew what it’s purpose once was or

1340 S Street NW (photo taken by me)

maybe because in general, it is not an attractive building. Interestingly, the building is one of the oldest in the neighborhood and attracts individuals that would have typically have lived there 30 years ago. The area is changing, it’s being renewed by fresh faces and expensive buildings, while this home has and most likely will remain the same. The building is located in an area called Cardozo/Shaw. This area is thriving, with new restaurants and stores on 14th Street, the area is attracting millennials. Cardozo/Shaw is growing and flourishing, and while maintaining a reasonable and relatively affordable rent, it’s a perfect neighborhood for post graduates. Cardozo/Shaw is a walker’s paradise, everything is in close proximity of one another; grocery stores, restaurants, shops, movie theaters, and the metro. Ideal for those who don’t have a car and rely on public transportation to get around the city. But 30 years ago, Shaw did not look or feel the way it did when I visited it just a couple weeks ago.

On a sunny, Sunday afternoon, I went to Shaw and was confused at the sight of an abundance of young adults strolling around. I did not expect to see this many white millennials especially since Howard University in nearby; a historically and dominantly black college. What I expected was an architecturally outdated, older looking neighborhood with not as much charm. Since Cardozo/Shaw is only 3 different zip codes, the area is small enough to undergo complete gentrification within a couple of decades. And that is exactly what happened. Since Cardozo/Shaw was affected by the drug epidemic in the 80’s, the neighborhood completely renovated itself to try and escape the past and move on. The neighborhood really tried to better itself after the epidemic and the only way to do so is gentrification. Renovating the neighborhood will attract a new demographic of residences and completely change the overall appearance of the neighborhood. But no matter how hard Shaw tries to rid of their past, their are still residences who have lived in Shaw throughout the drug epidemic and are fighting gentrification in order to preserve the past and all that comes with it.

Picture of 14th Street, off the corner of S Street (photo taken by me) *Notice the Obama sticker

The divide between the old generation and new generation is what gives Shaw so much character. Their tension between values and culture stem from their environment. I never realized the impact the built environment had on me and my perception of life until I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to college on the east coast. As David Fleming puts its, “many affluent suburbs, for example, are places where few people ever walk, where difference is rarely encountered, where children grow up thinking that the private automobile is the only legitimate means of transportation and the single-family detached home, the only truly human residence” (197). What Fleming just described is exactly where I grew up, a sheltered beach town in Los Angeles. And the exact opposite of Shaw, however, now people from the suburbs around DC are moving into Shaw because it’s undergoing gentrification. When I came to American University  I’ve never meet a more diverse group of friends in my life. And the main reason we were all different was because of our background and the place we call home. The way we act and behave in college is different then we do at home. Our psychological behavioral patterns stem from our hometowns and most do not even know it. Margaret J. King, Ph.D., couldn’t have said it any better, “conference room, swimming pool, store, bedroom, classroom, stadium- all with their own sensory inputs, comfort levels, and press (the demands on the brain and sensory systems). Then ask yourself: how does my behavior change in each environment?” (3). Our environment and surroundings shape who we are and continue to shape the person we will become. The environment Shaw is located in used to be run down, poor, even depressing, and so were the individuals living in that area. The residences of Shaw in the 80’s were not politicians, leaders, or successful people. However, the blame is not completely on themselves, their environment influenced them more than they knew. And as one grows up, they start to understand that the way they were raised was not only from their parents but their city. Despite all coming from different backgrounds, most know that there are appropriate behaviors for every situation, and we must act certain ways in front of certain people or certain environments in order to fit the norm and not stand out.

Because I wanted to be educated on my site before I ventured out there, I decided to look up an analysis on it. is a website that maps out places in the District of Columbia. With various pictures, graphs, and other data, this website helped me understand a new part of town I had never been to before. You can even click on different areas on the map within Cardozo/Shaw to see the average income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, and house/condo value. My complex local system was located in the zip code 20009, which has the second largest population in Cardozo/Shaw area, at almost 30,000 people. Zip code 20001 has about 41,000 people, and 20005 has about 9,000 people.

Map of the Shaw area (photo from

To the right shows a more detailed layout of Cardozo/Shaw and reveals how small it is compared to other neighborhoods in the DC Metropolitan area, which is why this area was so successful with gentrification. And while the overall living is rated an A on, the crime and safety is a C- and housing is a C. This goes back to my argument of how difficult it is to break away from violence and drug related crimes. Although this neighborhood has improved tremendously and will only continue to improve, there are still some safety precautions one must take if moving to this area. Theft being 575 times more likely to happen over murder shows that there are still people living in that area or on the outskirts who are poor, needy, and desperate.

1340 S Street NW (photo taken by me)

Looking further into the website, I found that the median household income is a little under $100,000 and almost half of the residents have a masters degree or higher. Education is a key factor to success. If more educated people are moving to the Shaw area than they would most likely want higher quality housing, dining, and shopping options than an uneducated person would. Which is why nicer restaurants, cafes, and shops are opening in the area. An educated person, compared to an uneducated one, has a higher chance in being successful in this competitive world. So why would an educated person want to move to a run down neighborhood?  Shaw is changing solely for the people, the dynamics of the neighborhood is changing in order for a newer, younger, and wealthier crowd to move into. What was once a poor and uneducated, drug-ridden neighborhood has turned into upper middle class and college educated neighborhood. The buildings, the sidewalk, the front of stores, backyards, were all spaces in Shaw that were different 30 years ago. The people utilizing the sidewalks, living in the buildings, and shopping in the stores were all different 30 years ago. And although some older residents may argue that the tradition of Shaw is gone, I believe it has just started. With only 6% of homes having children, this young and hip new area in DC is attracting more millennials than ever.

As you move down the website there are charts on residents ages, house values, race, and income distribution. Since there is a lot of information on this website, the charts help clear up the confusion and break down the information in a more visually pleasing way. The charts throughout the website are colorful and clear.

Pie Chart of races in Cardozo (photo from

Residents’ age (photo from

Income chart (photo from

Although this neighborhood was once affiliated heavily with drugs and crime, it has turned over a new leaf. This neighborhood is now booming with young adults due to the new and relatively affordable apartment buildings, the trend-setting, modern cafes and restaurants, and boutique stores opening. King quoted Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., in her article on the power of place, Gage said, “change the environment, change the brain, change the behavior”(2). This is what’s happening in Shaw. The environment is changing so therefore the people are. The environment is growing, it’s becoming more populated, more businesses are opening, more restaurants are opening. 

Besides the neighborhood changing, in the ways of reconstruction and more white, middle class citizens moving to Shaw, the value of my site is increasing due to the area becoming more popular. It’s current value is based at around $700,000 but is expected to be worth over a million dollars in 2018, according to Office of Tax and Revenue on The increase in house value shows just how popular this area is now becoming. Although the area around my site is rapidly changing, 1340 S Street NW is over 30 years old and the history, tradition and strong sense of community will always be a constant in the neighborhood. The divide between the old community and new community is in a battle right now, with the old trying to keep to their traditions alive and the new starting their own. This neighborhood will continue to change and develop in the upcoming decades but as of now it is in a transition period of the history of the past and the future of tomorrow.

Work Cited

Fleming, David, “City of Rhetoric,” SUNY Press, 2009.

King, Margaret J. The Power of Place: How Environment Affects Brain Function and Meaning.

Pipestem: Harper Perennial, 2009. The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment.”  The Yale Journal of Law. Vol. 126, No. 6. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.



Reading Analysis #3:

In chapter 7 City of Rhetoric, David Fleming dicusses public housing and it’s effects on society as a whole, including health and wealth, as well as its individual effect on people of different socio-economic class. More specifically Fleming argues that while public housing benefits the poor, the wealthy benefit more from the program. Although the wealthy’s tax paying dollars are going towards building apartment complexes for the poor to live in, it is worth it to the rich because they don’t have to live near or associate themselves with the poor. Also, as some may have assumed, violence and crime started up in the public housing neighborhoods due to the lack of opportunity that surrounded these high-rise complexes. In turn, the complexes were filthy, depressing, rat infested, graffitied parts of bricks and cement stacked upon one another. David Fleming mentions Cabrini Green, a public housing area in South Chicago. He says that the “three-quarter mile long stretch of high-rises populated almost exclusively by the poorest of the poor” (156) is now going under redevelopment. In doing so, this could potentially combine and mix different races and classes.The city was divided in half because of public housing, but the buildings were deteriorating and not suited for anyone to be living in. 

Are there possible alternatives to demolition? As Fleming had mentioned,instead of tearing down the buildings, working class citizens could move into the area in order to deconcentrate the poor, or repair the high-rises (157). However these solutions were tried in the past and failed. Some consider public housing dysfunctional and the best, let alone, only solution is to completely demolish the building and scatter the residents around the city.


Public Housing in Chicago

My opinion on the chapter:

Demolition may be what the city wants, but it’s not what the residents want. Even with promised housing in other areas of Chicago, the residents would rather rehabilitate their buildings than have them destroyed and be forced to move else where. It is also not fair that these citizens living in public housing are classified and stereotyped by their environment. After all, they are human beings and deserve the same rights as a millionare. Because living in a poor neighborhood can involve higher rates of drug abuse, crime, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy, does not mean every person living in these areas are involving themselves in illegal or explicit behaviors and activities.


Reading Analysis 2

City of Rhetoric: A New Civic Map for Our Time

In order for our society to function properly, David Fleming, author of City of Rhetoric, argues that the size of the community is the most important. The amount of citizens in a city determine the participation levels, the political talks and debates, the separation of class, and the educational systems. Another important factor is that the society participates in public discourse. Citizens not participating in political actions only causes harm to the society as a whole because the less they participate, the less diversity and power their is.
While Fleming argues that smaller communities with shared political beliefs individually benefit citizens more than the United States’ federal government does (56), I still believe that the U.S. educational system can better equalize the education system and better provide fair education to all students. Fleming argues that the textbooks used in this country are all the same and all American (39). Although in theory it might work well to have smaller local governments to control school districts based off location and local beliefs, the vast income inequality in our country would reflect in the quality education nationwide. It would not be fair to separate curriculum based on an area because not all areas have equal funding to provide quality education. Rather, I believe, that the students across the United States should be taught the same in order to have equal opportunity.

Because of the specific writing, reading, and speaking courses in this country, the “role of individual citizens in such politics is almost entirely, therefore, spectatorial” (Fleming 41). A citizen being an onlooker in politics only further un involves them in activities. Indirect participation leads to a lack in a shared sense of common good and then gives all the power to the upper hand leaders. In terms in the United States, we are a democratic society, the people participate and get back what they give in- with taxes, voting, and so on. But other countries, such as Afghanistan, do not get a say in the political events in their country, instead they have to watch by the sidelines. So American’s should feel lucky and honored to be able to participate in such activities involving the government.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “City of Rhetoric” SUNY Press, 2009.

Reading Analysis #1

City of Rhetoric: The Placelessness of Political Theory

In David Fleming’s scholarly text, The City of Rhetoric, he argues that your surroundings are every aspect of who you are, from your choice of food, to even your political ideology. Fleming brings up this claim many times throughout the chapter. We would not be who we are without place. Place meaning our origins, our surroundings, and the people that make it up. Individuals values, beliefs, and morals are stemmed from where they grew up and what they call “home” (Fleming 22). Every location has its own unique properties, independent from others. Their individuality brings their citizens a very defined sense of self. For example, many Americans identify themselves as American, but they also identify themselves as New Yorkers, Floridians, etc.
Stemming from Fleming’s argument that our surroundings influence who we are, the individuals who surround us, who are also a bi-product of that environment, also have a profound impact on our morals and values. Fleming uses the ideas of republicanism and liberalism. Republicanism in the golden-age of Athens was not only small and independent, but active participation was expected of each and every citizen. However, republicanism was often criticized for being too demanding and controlling. Republicanism was “founded and maintained by selfless citizens zealously guarding their own and their fellows’ freedom through physical combat and public displays of verbal eloquence, practical wisdom, and communal spirit” (Fleming 25). The selflessness of citizens shows the powerful uniting force of ideas and values based off a specific location. The idea of dying for your country is still prevalent today. For example, American’s would sacrifice their lives for the United States, despite it being a place in space, it represents so much more than just that.
Fleming uses liberalism to express individuality and privateness. Each place has a different sense of liberalism however, individual happiness is found through involvement in family, church and other nonpolitical activities rather than participating in politics (Fleming 26). In liberalism, participation in politics is not required due to its emphasis of expression and civil society. This directly impacts the ideals and values a society contains.
Being able to understand our origins and understand our background allows us to advance as people. In an everly more interconnected world, people often overlook the influences that are apparent in our surroundings. By understanding these influences we can further understand our own society and solve the issues that arise by understanding their origins.

Work Cited

Fleming, David, “City of Rhetoric,” SUNY Press, 2009.