An Argument for Seeing in Urban Social Science
Ethnographic and other qualitative researches are often relegated to a lesser status despite significant contributions to social science. However, ethnography as a research best practice is firmly anchored in theory, method, and subject matter. This essay synthesizes ways of looking at immigrant and gentrified urban neighborhoods in global cities as visible expressions of cultural and class changes that are expressed in vernacular landscapes.
“When we first pass through local spaces in global cities we are like tourists using our eyes to decipher the clues and cues to which we are exposed. Is this a safe or a dangerous place? Am I welcome here or should I leave before it is too late? What kind of neighborhood is it? Are the local residents rich or poor? What is their race, ethnicity, or religion and how (or why) does it matter? Some things are easy to tell on a street, such as there things for sale here? Legitimate merchants make it obvious that they are seeking customers with signs that compete for attention, but for the sale of illicit goods, the signs are subtler. Yet it seems that for the knowledgeable purchaser they are still there in plain view. This reading the “street signs” so to speak is not merely an aesthetic exercise. What we see makes a difference in how we respond to the places and the people we find in our increasingly complex and changing urban surroundings.‟ …(continue below)
(Krase 2012: 1)