The Edge and the Center: Gated Communities and the Discourse of Urban Fear:

Setha M. Low

Across America, middle-class and upper-middle-class gated communities are creating new forms of exclusion and residential segregation, exacerbating social cleavages that already exist (Blakely and Snyder 1997; Higley 1995; Lang and Danielson 1997; Marcuse 1997). While historically secured and gated communities were built in the United States to protect estates and to contain the leisure world of retirees, these urban and suburban developments now target a much broader market, including families with children (Guterson 1992; Lofland 1998). This retreat to secured enclaves with walls, gates, and guards materially and symbolically contradicts American ethos and values, threatens public access to open space, and creates yet another barrier to social interaction, building of social networks, as well as increased tolerance of diverse cultural/ racial/social groups (Davis 1992;Devine 1996;Etzoni 1995; Judd 1995; McKenzie 1994).

In this paper, I explore how the discourse of fear of violence and crime and the search for a secure community by those who live in gated communities in the United States legitimates and rationalizes class-based exclusion strategies and residential segregation. I examine whether residents of cities experiencing increasing cultural diversity are fleeing neighborhoods because they have experienced a "loss of place" and therefore feel unsafe and insecure (Altaian and Low 1992). Some people are responding to this loss by choosing to buy into a defensive space, a walled and guarded community that they can call home, [gated communities, United States, urban fear]