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Evelyn Perry's Riverwest Fieldwork

Author finds 'Conflict and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood'

Jul. 11, 2017
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Sociologist Evelyn M. Perry grew up in Whitefish Bay, but she spent the three years from 2007-2010 living in Riverwest conducting ethnographic fieldwork in an attempt to understand what has allowed this locally famous, racially and economically diverse community to maintain relative stability in an otherwise highly segregated city. An artsy Milwaukee neighborhood, which in 2016 was voted “one of the best midsize neighborhoods for living well” by real estate website Trulia, Riverwest boasts unique urban landmarks in the form of funky galleries and established restaurants set alongside unique bars and cafés.

However, it is Riverwest’s ethnic and racial diversity that makes it stand out in the midst of Milwaukee’s otherwise segregated cityscape, and it is this theme that Perry explores in detail in her book Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood. In her debut publication, Perry, a sociology professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, shares the detailed and tenderhearted qualitative data she gathered through in-depth interviews with 60 Riverwest community members.

Perry has always been fascinated by urban enclaves and her comprehensive analysis demonstrates how nonconformity coupled with direct communication can foster successful, integrated cities. In addition to examining the benefits of integration, Perry’s research also conceptualizes innovative ideas to foster more such communities across the country.

While Live and Let Live provides a hopeful image of democratic, integrated and racially mixed communities, Perry remains a realist who also questions whether a segregated, Midwestern city like Milwaukee can positively transform and reduce inequities through integration alone. Perry will discuss her research in conversation with WUWM’s Mitch Teich at Boswell Book Co., 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18.

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