The Folklore of the FreewayRace and Revolt in the Modernist City

The Folklore of the FreewayRace and Revolt in the Modernist City

Eric Avila

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816680726

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


The Folklore of the Freeway provides an alternative history of highway construction in urban America, emphasizing the cultural politics of fighting freeways in the inner city. Using the methods of ethnic studies, cultural studies, and urban history, this book offers a revisionist history of the freeway revolt in urban America, that moment when neighborhood activists organized against state highway builders to defend the integrity of their communities. While historical accounts of the freeway revolt emphasize successful forms of grassroots mobilization within predominantly white, middle-class urban communities, the urban neighborhoods that bore the brunt of urban highway construction, lacking political and economic power, devised a creative set of cultural strategies to express opposition towards the routing of freeways through their neighborhoods. These expressions, taking shape through visual and literary cultural forms, iterates the destructive consequences of the Interstate highway program, helping to preserve communal integrity and identity and inventing new relationships between people and the urban built environment. This book thus considers the cultural dimensions of this freeway revolt, emphasizing the role of culture and identity in mediating the relationship between inner city communities and the disruptive process of infrastructural development. Losers, perhaps, in the fight against the freeway, these racially and ethnically diverse communities of working class men and women nonetheless innovated a genre of cultural expression that shapes our understanding of the urban landscape and influences the shifting priorities of urban policy since the 1960s.