Saving This Place: An Ethnography of Fresno, CA's Fulton Mall
- Author(s): Perez, Doris Dakin
- Advisor(s): DeLugan, Robin M.
- Torres-Rouff, David S.
- et al.
My dissertation situates issues of urban space, place and renewal within a larger context of historical social memory.An open urban space that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, the once-beautiful urban Fulton Mall in Fresno, CA served as abandoned parkland contested by city leaders and community members alike until a controversial infrastructure project began in 2016. I developed an ethnographic project of the site and the dynamics of local narrative. My research agenda concerns several key questions: How does social memory influence the construction of identity and citizenship at the local political level? How does the revitalization of open urban space play into this construction as the mechanism of a changing sense of citizenship? This small local contest about space is theoretically significant to the broader urban anthropology discipline, and was investigated ethnographically to best capture this particular contestation as historically and culturally-situated.The Fulton Mall’s revitalization serves as a test case for issues of space and community all urban centers will eventually confront,and are important to the master narratives of placemaking.Redevelopment construction on the mall happened during my fieldwork(2015-2017) and added a component of urgency to my research while also affording me the opportunity to see continuing citizen action unfold. My ethnographic evidence suggests that the political discussion engendered by the proposed changes and current revitalization of the Fulton Mall in Fresno is really a contestation of identity, in which the social memory of a community is highlighted and positioned in direct contest to the larger forces of a postmodern movement to manufacture space first, community second. My research highlights the focus on fiscal matters driving local planning projects as they relate to economic markets and city boosterism, not community desires, needs or history.