References to neighborhood are commonplaces of urban representation, but the idea of a neighborhood is not natural or given; it came into existence in the U. S. with the emergence of markets for residential real estate in the era of urban industrialization between the second half of the nineteenth century and first decades of the twentieth. It has always been an artifact and engine of historically specific political-economic and ideological forces that simultaneously fueled the growth of a real estate industry and impelled spatial segmentation by class and race. The neighborhood not only does not lie outside these processes; it is inseparable from them. Its mystification, as is already playing out in the case of Tremé, is itself a node in the logic of redevelopment. That is, the aura of distinctive neighborhood, particularly when accompanied by the cachet of cultural authenticity, is an element in the commercial valorization that defines areas as “hot” and ripe for rent-intensifying redevelopment. In this domain, as in tourism and many others, market forces depend on the fiction that there is a territory of culture that lies pristinely outside the market.
I haven’t seen Treme, so I don’t know how accurate this is as a criticism of the show, but it’s a very interesting discussion of the history and political economy of ideas of neighborhood and community.