Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Liminal Greensburg, Kansas

Perhaps my most popular post at the Burgh Diaspora blog is titled "Liminal Youngstown". I won't bore anyone with the social theory behind the term liminal space. Suffice to say, Youngstown is a place where the cultural fringe can thrive. This is where new ideas find expression.

[Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson] also said something that really resonated with me. He said that Greensburg was lucky to have the entire town destroyed, as opposed to only 50 percent of it. The storm did not divide the town into the haves and the have-nots; everybody lost everything. According to Mayor Dixson, that's one reason why the rebuilding efforts have been so successful. The entire community owns the process.

A tornado practically wiped Greensburg off of the map. The disruption opened up liminal space that allowed the unusual suspects to lead the way for remaking their home. Katrina did the same thing for New Orleans. For Youngstown, it was Black Monday. In today's Detroit, it is the Great Recession.

But why did it take so long in Youngstown for the liminal space to appear? Ironically, Black Monday didn't do enough damage. There were still enough spoils for the likes of James Traficant. His criminal conviction was the last tie to the old way of doing business. When the feds put him behind bars, Liminal Youngstown was born.

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