In some of Camden, NJ’s most underdeveloped neighborhoods, new investment is perceived as a catch-22. Such investment is badly needed, but residents fear gentrification and the creation of white spaces. Our study examines that puzzle, that residents protest badly needed investment, using ethnographic and interview data from residents and Camden, NJ, as a case study for examining community understanding of gentrification. In doing so, we draw upon gentrification literature that focuses on displacement pressure and exclusionary displacement, but argue that the Camden case points towards a different dimension of gentrification. Our findings show how (1) exclusion and “unwelcomeness” created by the development of white spaces is conceptualized by residents as being distinct from the impact such exclusion has on future displacement and (2) that residents internalize that exclusion from white spaces, dampening their support and increasing their resistance for new development. Our findings represent a contribution to the discussion on displacement pressure, which focuses primarily on exclusion through financial and economic pressure on residents, and shows that racialized exclusion is, itself, a fundamental element of residential fear of gentrification. We point to an opportunity to address fears of gentrification not only through economic means but also by focusing on issues of access and exclusion in urban space as a direct response to such residential fears.
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