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SAAP Annual Meeting 2018

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Urban Renewal and the Rhetoric of Scientific Progress: A Deweyan Analysis of the Destruction of the Indiana Avenue Community

This essay considers the ways in which the rhetoric of modern progress was deployed in urban renewal projects in cities including Indianapolis to justify the eradication of the black American neighborhoods. In the words of urban archaeologist Paul Mullins, “landscapes of urban renewal have effaced heritage, eluded race and allowed many people to ignore how their privileges were historically secured along color and class lines.” Using the work of John Dewey, the misappropriation of scientific method embodied in the urban renewal policies and processes is examined, demonstrating how it was deployed as a tool of systematic social and cultural violence and destruction. The accompanying minimization of lived culture, especially black American culture, is examined through the lens of Dewey’s aesthetic thought.

Deborah Seltzer-Kelly
Wabash College
United States


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