Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

David Fasenfest


This dissertation employs a Gramscian framework as an alternative approach to understand the utilization of neoliberal community-based development—which advocates free-market schemes to development, and a refocus from institutional and structural causes of poverty to endogenous community forces (social capital and community capacity building)—by low-income residents in hyper-abandoned and disinvested urban neighborhoods. Using a case study of resident-led neighborhood development in the low-income neighborhood of Brightmoor in Detroit, Michigan, I show how “everyday discourse” of urban decline in Detroit and the possible rehabilitation of the city shape the “common sense” understanding of the “problem-and-solution equation” associated with the process of neighborhood development. In doing so, I show how neoliberal interpretations of neighborhood development by residents can produce spaces of exclusion. Specifically, this study demonstrates the way in which resident-led urban agriculture, functioning through a “neoliberal ethic” of development, can trigger the process of eco-gentrification, causing the displacement of the most economically vulnerable residents in the neighborhood. Using this framework, I discuss the role of the hegemony of capitalism in: 1) shaping the possibilities of neighborhood change for poor communities and 2) establishing and legitimizing neoliberal restructuring strategies as a new mode of urban crisis management.