Sunday, August 16, 2020

Pepper Glass's "Misplacing Ogden, Utah"

Pepper Glass is associate professor of sociology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. He has published his research on racial inequality, social movements, and youth culture in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Mobilization, and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

Glass applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Misplacing Ogden, Utah: Race, Class, Immigration, and the Construction of Urban Reputations, and reported the following:
Page 99 of “Misplacing Ogden, Utah” starts with the second half of a table that shows the race of residents in Weber county – where Ogden, Utah is found – from 1930 to 2000. (The first half of the table, on page 98, showed the years 1870 through 1920.) The races are White, Hispanic, African-American, Chinese, and Japanese. The table shows a large white population and much smaller non-white communities, except for a Hispanic population that balloons from about 5,000 people in 1970 to around 25,0000 in 2000. A paragraph explains how minority and immigrant communities were historically forced to live in segregated neighborhoods in Ogden’s central city, surrounding a downtown entertainment area that catered to the vices of railroad workers and travelers.

Page 99 of Misplacing Ogden, Utah hits many of the main arguments of the book. In the study, I wanted to explore how recent growth in Ogden’s Latino community, and especially its immigrants, shaped the city’s reputation. Yet, I discovered that their giant growth – Latinos made up close to one third of the city’s residents in 2010 – had little impact on Ogden’s reputation. Instead, this population folded into pre-existing social divisions, including how they lived in the historically segregated neighborhoods surrounding Ogden’s downtown.

The immigrant Latino community of Ogden was also central to my argument about urban reputations. Researchers and the general public alike tend to understand the reputations of places as reflections of the conditions found there. So places gain bad reputations because of the crime, graffiti, dilapidated buildings, and other “disorder” in a neighborhood. Yet, I discovered that these linkages between disorder and reputation do not always happen. Latino immigrants, who tended to live in places that others saw as the worst areas of Ogden, saw their communities positively. They also did not draw firm lines between “good” and “bad” neighborhoods, as other residents did.

Given this, I argued that divisions between areas reflect “moral frontiers” between the residents of higher and lower status places. Higher status people benefit from dividing themselves from lower status people, and one way that they do this is by defining their own neighborhoods as good and those of lower status people as bad. Lower status people benefit from uniting with higher status people, so they tend to challenge ideas that their communities are bad places, arguing that their neighborhoods are just as good as others.
Learn more about Misplacing Ogden, Utah.

--Marshal Zeringue