Doctoral Dissertation Research for Ellen Hostetter: The Emotions of Public Housing Policy- A Critical Human Exploration of the Creation and Implementation of HOPE VI

Grants and Contracts Details


HOPE VI is dramatically changing the face of public housing. HOPE VI is a program created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the early 1990s in order to alter and/or demolish severely distressed properties in highly stigmatized public housing landscapes. The HOPE VI program proposes to replace barracks-style and high rise apartments with a new public housing landscape built on the planning principles of New Urbanism: small-scale developments of single family homes and townhouses with front lawns and porches. Given the massive financial investment, radical landscape alteration, and impact on residents' lives, researchers have been interested in critically analyzing (l) why HOPE VI was created and (2) how HOPE VI has been implemented. Analyses have used historical, economic, and political lenses for these tasks. These analyses, however, treat HUD officials, Congressmen, and housing authority officials as mere units in a bureaucratic machine driven by economics and politics. The human, emotional dimension of decision making is not considered, resulting in an incomplete and skewed understanding of HOPE VI. Employing a critical humanist perspective, this project asks: how have specific emotions entered into and impacted the creation and implementation of HOPE VI? To answer this question, the project is organized around an analysis of government officials' 'emotive narratives': the emotive content of their descriptions and representations of public housing landscapes. Landscape is central for two reasons. First, the goals of the program are discussed and worked out through landscape change, making landscape key to how and why HOPE VI works. Second, as cultural geographers have shown, landscape plays an active role in social life, mediating discourses and constructing, maintaining, and reproducing social relations, of which emotional interactions are a critical component. Given this, the project seeks to answer the following questions: (I) how do emotive narratives help form consensus among policy makers and (2) how do emotive narratives move through the networks that are necessary for the implementation of a HOPE VI grant? The research design consists of two tasks. To answer research question I, key government documents from the creation of HOPE VI will be analyzed for emotive content by making connections between words and phrases in the texts and psychologists' writings on specific emotions. Semi-structured interviews will also be conducted with people involved in the creation of HOPE VI in order to understand the process from their perspective and test findings and assumptions from the archival analysis. To answer research question 2, semi-structured interviews and participant observation will take place in two cities with HOPE VI grants: Lexington, Kentucky and Charlotte, North Carolina. Questions and observations will focus on which emotive narratives are important for receiving and implementing a HOPE VI grant. This project will make four main intellectual contributions. First, this project merges geographers' current interest in emotions with research on how policy works. More specifically, by following the emerging framework laid out by landscape geographers interested in emotions, this project will bring an understanding of landscape and emotion to the study of housing policy. Second, this project will counter stereotypes of government agencies as monolithic entities and shed light on how the public policy process works. Third, by speaking and interacting with government officials, this project will incorporate previously omitted perspectives and understandings of the HOPE VI process. Fourth, the project will bring a rigorous understanding of emotion to critical humanist geography through the psychology literature. This project will also have broader impacts through (l) sharing of results in cross-disciplinary journals and conferences, (2) bringing issues of landscape to a community of psychologists and issues of emotion to public officials, and (3) providing a framework for evaluating and understanding future policy decisions.
Effective start/end date7/15/067/31/07


  • National Science Foundation: $6,796.00


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