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Buildings 2014, 4(2), 155-194;

Fourth World Theory: The Evolution of . . .

Department of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, USA
Received: 21 January 2014 / Revised: 13 March 2014 / Accepted: 22 April 2014 / Published: 21 May 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Designing Spaces for City Living)
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Fourth World theory is a methodology for examining and developing greater understanding of the extent of the distress and abandonment commonly found in the cores of American cities resulting from de-industrialization, historic segregation and discrimination patterns, suburban sprawl, erosion of a viable tax base, racism, inability to embrace the concept of desegregation and civil rights legislation, fear, despair, crumbling infrastructure systems, disinvestment in urban school systems, and environmental justice issues. This article uses the analytical lens of Fourth World theory to examine how such structural and cultural forces contributed to the severely distressed conditions now found in the city of Gary, Indiana. Tracking its one-hundred-year history, from its founding as an industrial town through its post-industrial decline occurring during the city’s first African-American mayor’s five terms in office, the methodology clearly demonstrates how the social construction of race has systematically undermined every aspect of Gary’s overall quality of life. To illustrate that this city is not an anomaly but rather reflects a typical pattern of disparity and uneven development arising from racist practices, Gary is compared to other cities of similar size and also to the much larger Detroit. The article triangulates academic literature, news media archives, and an oral history provided by the mayor to show how Gary evolved from being a model industrial city to a cauldron of racial disparity. The paper concludes by arguing that continued absence of reflection on the nation’s historical racialization of place threatens not just impoverished communities of color, but also the sustainability of the entire nation. View Full-Text
Keywords: social justice; segregation; place-based inequality; socially conscious design; community assets social justice; segregation; place-based inequality; socially conscious design; community assets

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Dotson, O.F. Fourth World Theory: The Evolution of . . .. Buildings 2014, 4, 155-194.

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