Memory Politics: Growth Coalitions, Urban Pasts, and the Creation of “Historic” Philadelphia

Marcus Anthony Hunter, Kevin Loughran*, Gary Alan Fine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Facing economic changes and disinvestment, powerful actors in post-World War II American cities attempted to define the city as a space of public culture to confront demographic shifts, suburban growth, and the breakdown of community. Some civic actors, especially in older Eastern cities, looked to a nostalgic and heroic past where a theme of American identity became salient as a result of the Cold War and rapid cultural and economic changes in the postwar era. To achieve urban growth, elites argued for urban redevelopment policies based on historical themes and imagery. We examine the sociopolitical history of Philadelphia's Independence Hall redevelopment project (1948–1959) and the development of the adjacent Society Hill neighborhood (1959–1964). We offer the framework of memory politics—political contests over the use of shared community history—to examine how growth coalitions implement plans for economic growth, tourism, and civic allegiance. Philadelphia, particularly during the postwar era, exemplifies how heritage, politics, and place dynamically collide and direct urban development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-349
Number of pages20
JournalCity and Community
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies

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