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Urban History association 2023 Award Winners

Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American Urban History


The Sanctuary City Immigrant, Refugee, and Receiving Communities in Postindustrial Philadelphia

(Cornell University Press, 2022)

Domenic Vitiello offers a book that is timely and important. His new work, Sanctuary City: Immigrant, Refugee, and Receiving Communities in Postindustrial Philadelphia (Cornell), takes on a broad reading of the concept of sanctuary in the twenty-first-century city. Vitiello writes, "Americans' fights over sanctuary and sanctuary cities are, at their heart, about which newcomers deserve protection and support and of what kinds" (1). Blending immigrant and urban history, Vitiello studies Central American, Southeast Asian, Liberian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Palestinian immigration to Pennsylvania's largest city. He asks "about these different groups' experiences of migration and settlement in Philadelphia and how they and their allies in receiving communities organized to address the problems they faced, to seek their own forms of sanctuary" (3). Vitiello came to this historical scholarship via activism, and his work reveals access to voices and documents that usually lay outside the scholarly grasp. The Sanctuary City poses a challenge: to current immigration policy and to the idea that welcoming immigrants and refugees with care and compassion causes harm. This gripping new text evolved from his course, "The Immigrant City," an offering that spurred and strengthened the research. Urban scholars have a lot of work to do on this subject, and Vitiello has given us a strong start. In the city of Sisterly Affection, and Brotherly Love, immigrants and refugees are neither uprooted or transplanted; instead, they are seeds of demographic, communal and economic transformations that enrich the urban environment as a whole. The Sanctuary City is deeply researched, wildly creative, and opens new ways of seeing and understanding urban America and its connectedness to the world.

Best Book in Non-North American Urban History

Cecilia L. Chu

Building Colonial Hong Kong: Speculative Development and Segregation in the City

(Routledge, 2022)

In Building Colonial Hong Kong, Chu traces what she calls “speculative urbanism” where different constituencies–British developers, colonial officials, as well as property-owning and working-class Chinese–struggled over the politics of colonial difference and property rights in shaping the built environment. These struggles helped to determine racial and class segregation, the provision of urban services, and practices of cultural representation and identity formation. While the examples of opportunism and speculation chronicled in Building Colonial Hong Kong will resonate with those familiar with Hong Kong’s property market today, her exploration of the interplay between British colonial governance and the political practices of native propertied classes offer new insights into Hong Kong’s development. Engaging a broad, interdisciplinary, and geographically comparative body of literature, Chu moves beyond her case study to make bigger claims about the relationships and tensions among liberal property markets, racist exclusion, cultural representations, and various "improvement" schemes within urban colonial contexts.

Arnold Hirsch Award for Best Article in a Scholarly Journal


Todd M. Michney


Joshua Ehrlich

"How the City Survey’s Redlining Maps Were Made: A Closer Look at HOLC’s Mortgagee Rehabilitation Division"

Journal of Urban History (2022)

Michney’s careful attention to the process and timing of the HOLC “City Survey'' project challenges the common perception that the main purpose of these maps was to redline or exclude African Americans and other racial minorities from participating in HOLC’s mortgage refinancing program. In fact, as Michney argues, HOLC did not begin their city surveys until September 1935, after a full 90 percent of its loans were already closed. The maps, however, do provide a window into racial assumptions and underpinnings of federal housing policies. Michney corrects common misunderstandings and highlights the maps' value as a lens into the racial prejudices and influences present in federal housing policies at that time. He demonstrates how the maps, while not solely instruments of exclusion, still offer insights into the racial underpinnings of housing and spatial policies. Michney’s assessment of the role of these maps in the historiography of race and housing policy helps explain their staying power with scholars and popular understandings of redlining and other forms of racial spatial and social segregation, as well as offering new directions for research.

“The Meanings of a Port City Boundary: Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch, c.1700–1950”

Past & Present (2022)

Ehrlich’s article provides a rich and nuanced examination of the history of Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch and paints a vivid picture of how physical boundaries play a profound role in shaping socio-political landscapes by encapsulating a city’s historical, political, and social evolution. Ehrlich shows how the ditch’s history directly relates to shifts in British colonial ambitions, negotiations with regional powers, and the emergence of Calcutta as a global metropolis. The ditch’s physical form, from a defensive structure to a boulevard, represents not only changing urban planning but also local political and societal dynamics. Through meticulous research, Ehrlich demonstrates that the history of the ditch represents a complex interplay between sovereignty, territorial expansion, and symbolic meaning-making, dispelling the notion of port cities as purely open and connected hubs. It not only delineated physical space, but also contributed to the creation of distinct social, cultural, and economic zones within the city. By weaving Calcutta’s story into the broader narrative of global port cities, it presents a compelling argument for the Maratha Ditch’s dual role as a barrier and bridge.

Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban History 

Matthew Pessar Joseph

Syncopating Segregation: Musical Cross-Pollination in Post-World War II New York City

Syncopating Segregation examines the mixed-race musical scenes that emerged in New York between 1945 and 1985. By characterizing these scenes as a “rise and fall of a socially democratic Gotham,” Dr. Joseph presents a “multiracial history of American popular culture.” To accomplish this, Dr. Joseph deploys a bilateral analytical framework that links studies of post-war urban segregation with scholarship on cross-cultural mediation to argue that Black, Latinx, queer, and white residents of post-World War II New York transcended boundaries of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation during a time when most scholars argue that New York grew more segregated.

While the field of urban history at times seems dominated by Gotham-centric studies, Dr. Joseph’s richly detailed analysis represents dogged, cross-cultural, and transnational research of archival, audio, and interview sources that provides new modes of thought for scholars, especially on how urban spaces change over time through race, class, and gender. As such, Dr. Joseph’s work speaks to different scholarly audiences, and does so with an elegant writing style.

UHA Award Committees

Thank you to the members of our award committees for their work selecting this year's winners.

Kenneth Jackson Award

Lisa Krissoff Boehm

Luther Adams-Free Man of Color

Evan Jay Friss

Best Book in Non-North American Urban History Award

Sheetal Chhabria

Elizabeth LaCouture

Jennifer Hart

Matthew Vitz

Michael Katz Award

Dan Horner

Peter Soppelsa

Johana Londoño

René Luís Alvarez

Arnold Hirsch Award

Emma Hart

Michael Innis-Jimenez

Steven H. Corey

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