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The Metropolitan Military : Navy Families and Housing in the American Sunbelt, 1941 - 2000

Abstract

"The Metropolitan Military" examines military family housing from 1941 to 2000 and argues post-World War II militarization shaped the processes of suburbanization and urbanization and concepts regarding citizenship. During the 1950s and 60s, real estate interests and municipalities opposed military housing on the grounds that it threatened segregation, promoted socialism, and competed unfairly with private business. After a decade of economic turmoil and tax revolts, individual homeowners took the lead by the late 1970s, opposing military housing in their communities and arguing it overburdened public infrastructure, notably schools, lowered municipal revenues, diminished property values, and spread social dysfunction. Even as homeowners demanded more property rights, welfare obligations shifted from the state to the individual, meaning public services contracted leaving homeowners and others to replace this infrastructure with their own efforts and finances. As a result, this applied further pressure to middle- and working-class homeowners. Homeowners/taxpayers became powerful political players in metropolitan debates, claiming racial innocence and privilege through the language of free markets. In so doing, free marketers unselfconsciously ignored state and federal interventions into the housing market. It was the shift to an all-volunteer military in 1973 that utterly transformed the debate about military housing, however. With the recruitment of more minorities and women, homeowner anxieties reached critical and ultimately transformative new heights. Repeatedly, homeowners highlighted the way quasi-single parent families - the unavoidable result of overseas deployment - failed to align with suburban norms. Race, class, and gender shaped property owners' ideas about "appropriate," "desirable," and "stable" families, resulting in a more cohesive effort to exclude or marginalize military housing in their communities. Through case studies in San Diego, CA, Hampton Roads, VA, Charleston, SC, and Washington D.C., I argue that while opposition to military housing existed prior to 1973, the shift to an all volunteer military in the context of New Right economic, social, and political influences, resulted in increasingly pitched protest as citizenship came to be determined by economic variables such as contributions to local tax revenue and homeownership status

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