Historian

Keyword: transnational history

Tracy Neumann is a historian of cities and the built environment. She is an Associate Professor at Wayne State University and an editor of the Global Urban History blog. She is the author of Remaking the Rust Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), which examines the relationship between neoliberal urbanism in North Atlantic cities and the postindustrial redevelopment of manufacturing centers in the US and Canada. Her current research investigates the global circulation of ideas about urban design and international development since 1945.

Neumann has been awarded fellowships from the Eisenberg Institute at the University of Michigan and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She received her PhD in History from New York University. She also holds an MA in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and a BA in History and Russian Studies from the University of Michigan.

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The Urban International

Tracy Neumann is working on a new book, provisionally titled The Urban International: Design and Development from the Marshall Plan to Microfinance. The project is a political, cultural, and intellectual history of the global dissemination of urban design and international development concepts through philanthropic foundations and international organizations since 1945. Her central concern is how urban planners, architects, consultants, academics, public officials, and grassroots activists circulated ideas about how cities should look, who counted as urban citizens, and who should have access to public space and public resources. She situates those guiding questions in an examination of the shift from liberal, state-led modernization projects to neoliberal, market-oriented development in cities around the world.

Through an investigation of programs sponsored by organizations such as the UN, UNESCO, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, The Urban International reconstructs how ideas about the design and management of North Atlantic cities influenced, and were influenced by, development projects in the global South. Many of the same people and organizations directed and funded international development programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and urban revitalization projects in the US, Canada, and Europe, and their work was one conduit through which neoliberal ideas moved around the world. The book draws on oral histories and materials from the UN, UNESCO, and World Bank archives; at the Rockefeller Archive Center; and the records of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, MIT’s planning department, and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.

Articles & Essays

“Reforging the Steel City: Symbolism and Space in Postindustrial Pittsburgh,” Journal of Urban History 44 (July 2018): 582-602

“The Post-Industrial City,” in Mark Rose and Roger Biles, eds., The President and American Capitalism Since 1945 (Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 2017), 249-267

“‘Goodbye, Steeltown’: Planning Post-Steel Cities in the US and Canada,” in Steven High, Lachlan MacKinnon, and Andrew Perchard, eds., The Deindustrialized World: Confronting Ruination in Post-Industrial Places (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2017), 190-207

“Postindustrial Cities and Urban Inequality,” Poverty and Race 25 (April-June 2016): 7-11

“The ‘Spiritual Capital’ of the Rust Belt: Pittsburgh and the Postindustrial Transformation of North Atlantic Cities,” Global Urban History blog, February 1, 2016

“Renaissance and Retrenchment in the 1970s,” Journal of Urban History 41 (January 2015): 39-43

“Privatization, Devolution, and Jimmy Carter’s National Urban Policy,” Journal of Urban History 40 (March 2014): 283-300

Remaking the Rust Belt

Remaking the Rust Belt coverCities in the North Atlantic coal and steel belt were sites of industrial power in the early twentieth century, but by the 1970s, their economic and political might had been significantly diminished by newly industrializing regions in the Global South. This was not simply a North American phenomenon—the precipitous decline of mature steel centers like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, Ontario, was a bellwether for similar cities around the world.

Contemporary narratives of the decline of basic industry on both sides of the Atlantic make the postindustrial transformation of old manufacturing centers seem inevitable, the product of natural business cycles and neutral market forces. Remaking the Rust Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America tells a different story, one in which local political and business elites, drawing on a limited set of internationally circulating redevelopment models, pursued postindustrial urban visions. They hired the same consulting firms; shared ideas about urban revitalization on study tours, at conferences, and in the pages of professional journals; and began to plan cities oriented around services rather than manufacturing—all well in advance of the economic malaise of the 1970s.

While postindustrialism remade cities, it came with high costs. In following this strategy, public officials sacrificed the well-being of large portions of their populations. Remaking the Rust Belt recounts how local leaders created the jobs, services, leisure activities, and cultural institutions that they believed would attract younger, educated, middle-class professionals. In their efforts to “save” cities, they abandoned social democratic goals and widened and deepened economic inequality among urban residents.

“Remaking the Rust Belt is lucid, balanced, and engaging. Tracy Neumann’s argument about the importance of place is compelling and well sustained.”
—Richard Harris, McMaster University

“Tracy Neumann’s book provides a welcome addition to the literature on the history of industrial policy and planning in North America. For Neumann, the “Rustbelt” is as much a set of ideas and experiences as it is a place. Rejecting conventional narratives associated with terms like “deindustrialization” and “neoliberalism,” she tells a more complicated story of public officials and private interests acting across a variety of geographies and scales, sometimes in collusion, sometimes in conflict, always in tension. We see mayors, planners, economic development officers, corporate executives, labor leaders, community activists and other civic actors grappling in real time with the full range of problems that emerge from large-scale transformations in the globl economy. In the end, Neumann demonstrates how the “post-industrial” turn of the last fifty years was not simply the inevitable outcome of economic forces, but rather a conscious production of a new social imaginary–a world in the making.”—Joseph Heathcott, The New School

 

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