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Lemieux Library
Lemieux Library

Arts Leadership Book Club

Fall 2020 Book Club, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance by Serin Houston

Event Date & Time: Wednesday, December 9, 12:00 – 1:00 pm and Thursday, December 10, 12:00 – 1:00 pm (see below for more information)

Location: Online Event

Imagining Seattle dives into some of the most pressing and compelling aspects of contemporary urban governance in the United States. Serin D. Houston uses a case study of Seattle to shed light on how ideas about environmentalism, privilege, oppression, and economic growth have become entwined in contemporary discourse and practice in American cities. Seattle has, by all accounts, been hugely successful in cultivating amenities that attract a creative class. But policies aimed at burnishing Seattle’s liberal reputation often unfold in ways that further disadvantage communities of color and the poor, complicating the city’s claims to progressive politics.

Through ethnographic methods and a geographic perspective, Houston explores a range of recent initiatives in Seattle, including the designation of a new cultural district near downtown, the push to charge for disposable shopping bags, and the advent of training about institutional racism for municipal workers. Looking not just at what these policies say but at how they work in practice, she finds that opportunities for social justice, sustainability, and creativity are all constrained by the prevalence of market-oriented thinking and the classism and racism that seep into the architecture of many programs and policies. Houston urges us to consider how values influence actions within urban governance and emphasizes the necessity of developing effective conditions for sustainability, creativity, and social justice in this era of increasing urbanization.

-- Language from University of Nebraska Press


This two-part session features Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Performing Arts & Arts Leadership. Attendees should read the introduction as well as chapters 1, 3, and 4 of Imagining Seattle.

On December 9, Serin Houston, author of Imagining Seattle will give a talk about her book followed by Q&A led by Dr. Mahmoud. (To RSVP for this session, please claim a ticket here)

On December 10, Dr. Mahmoud will facilitate a mapping exercise with attendees inspired by the text. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blank piece of paper and crayons and markers in the following colors: black, brown, purple, blue, green, yellow, and red. Materials can be flexible, but this will help to drop into the exercise fully. (To RSVP for this session, please claim a ticket here)

Jasmine Mahmoud is an urban ethnographer and performance historian who engages contemporary artistic practices, race, policy, and geography. Her fields and interests include: theater and performance studies, political economy, arts and cultural policy, black aesthetics, theories of the avant-garde, feminist/queer of color critique, and anti-racist, decolonial neighborhood processes beyond gentrification/displacement.

Serin Houston is an Assistant Professor of Geography and International Relations at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Serin D. Houston’s research draws on qualitative methods and a geographic perspective to examine questions of equity and justice from the individual to the global scale. Her book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance (2019), uses Seattle as a lens to analyze the translation of sustainability, creativity, and social justice from theory into praxis. Studying not only what policies and programs say, but also how they work in practice, Houston finds that racism and classism, matched with market-driven mandates, constrain the realization of these social values within the urban governance of Seattle, Washington.

Events are free and open to the public.

Get a Copy

Lemieux Library has one electronic copy available

eBook: online access limited to SU patrons

Looking to purchase? Support Black-owned book stores and purchase your book from Estelita's Library.