Hardback
November 24, 2020
9781421439549
English
256
86921
14
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v2.1 Reference
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English
256
86921
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9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$49.95 USD, £37.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Neighborhood of Fear

The Suburban Crisis in American Culture, 1975–2001

The explosive growth of American suburbs following World War II promised not only a new place to live but a new way of life, one away from the crime and crowds of the city. Yet, by the 1970s, the expected security of suburban life gave way to a sense of endangerment. Perceived, and sometimes material, threats from burglars, kidnappers, mallrats, toxic waste, and even the occult challenged assumptions about safe streets, pristine parks, and the sanctity of the home itself. In Neighborhood of Fear, Kyle Riismandel examines how suburbanites responded to this crisis by attempting to take control of the landscape and reaffirm their cultural authority.

An increasing sense of criminal and environmental threats, Riismandel explains, coincided with the rise of cable television, VCRs, Dungeons & Dragons, and video games, rendering the suburban household susceptible to moral corruption and physical danger. Terrified in almost equal measure by heavy metal music, the Love Canal disaster, and the supposed kidnapping epidemic implied by the abduction of Adam Walsh, residents installed alarm systems, patrolled neighborhoods, built gated communities, cried "Not in my backyard!," and set strict boundaries on behavior within their homes. Riismandel explains how this movement toward self-protection reaffirmed the primacy of suburban family values and expanded their parochial power while further marginalizing cities and communities of color, a process that facilitated and was facilitated by the politics of the Reagan revolution and New Right.

A novel look at how Americans imagined, traversed, and regulated suburban space in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Neighborhood of Fear shows how the preferences of the suburban middle class became central to the cultural values of the nation and fueled the continued growth of suburban political power.

About the Author

Kyle Riismandel is a senior lecturer in the Federated Department of History at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Endorsements

"Bringing together environmental and cultural concerns, Riismandel takes a very compelling approach. From The China Syndrome and home security systems to Dungeons & Dragons, his examples and evidence are original and creative."

- Lily Geismer, Claremont McKenna College, author of Don't Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party

"Riismandel combines important ideas about the moral panics and culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s with insights into the relations among popular culture, news media attention, and actual conditions on the ground, making this an interdisciplinary book of cultural studies, suburban studies, and recent political history."

- Elaine Lewinnek, California State University, Fullerton, author of The Working Man's Reward: Chicago's Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl

"By expertly weaving together cultural, media, and policy analysis, Riismandel reveals the cultural logic undergirding such seemingly disparate issues as 'stranger danger,' satanic panics, and NIMBYism in the 1970s and 1980s. This exciting and provocative book blows up the stereotype of the sitcom suburbs and helps us understand the world we live in today."

- Mary Rizzo, Rutgers University, author of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore beyond John Waters and The Wire

"Riismandel's deeply original argument connects very visible suburban environments such as the family home and the shopping mall to a series of invisible threats. In doing so he brings together cultural, political, and spatial readings of suburban fear to enable a reconceptualization of the suburbs as a psychological terrain."

- Cameron Logan, The University of Sydney, author of Historic Capital: Preservation, Race, and Real Estate in Washington, DC

"By turns a fascinating history and savvy cultural critique eerily prescient of contemporary politics, Neighborhood of Fear weaves together the histories of white suburbanites wielding 'productive victimization' as a 'new formula of power'—one that worked to undermine faith in government and to brand certain popular culture 'dangerous' while fortifying white privilege, racial segregation, and a particular version of family values. This book is both timely and timeless."

- Stephanie Ricker Schulte, University of Arkansas, author of Cached: Decoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture
Johns Hopkins University Press
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Hardback
November 24, 2020
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November 24, 2020
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