Maps Matter: Iowa City Boundaries and ‘Neighborhood Imaginaries’

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 12:00pm
Conference Center
2520D University Capitol Center (Old Capitol Mall)
Iowa City, IA 52240

March 3, 2010 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
2520D University Capitol Center (Old Capitol Mall)

Media, Space and Race: The Case of the "Southeast Side" of Iowa City

“Maps Matter: Iowa City Boundaries and ‘Neighborhood Imaginaries’” is the second of three seminars in the “Media, Space and Race” Public Rhetoric Seminar series.

In this seminar, three panelists and the public will explore the ways in which (1) mental images about the southeast side can be expressed through maps, (2) maps reflect the values, interests, and experiences of the map maker, and (3) diverse collectively-shared mental images about the southeast side are influencing behavior and public decision-making throughout the Iowa City area. 
The basic text for this “Maps Matter” seminar will be: Mapquest Aerial Map of the Iowa City Area. Link

Please note: Participants are also encouraged to look at the following maps pertaining to the Iowa City area:

Iowa City Community School District Redistricting Map Scenario 2 ES. Link

Iowa City Zoning Map. Link

Iowa City Police Department Neighborhood Watch Map. Link

Map of Iowa City Neighborhood Associations. Link
Video archive of this event recorded by PATV. Link


Although some members of the public have pointed to the “southeast side” as a problematic area for at least 15 years, the events during the summer of 2009 seemed to indicate that something new and more worrisome was happening, including:

Reports of gunfire, rowdy neighbors, children roaming freely at night, and large groups of teenagers blocking streets and sidewalks.

Killing of a landlord of one of the apartment buildings by an unknown assailant.

Some residents blamed the city’s housing programs for having created a ghetto, whereas others claimed the problem was poverty not government-assisted housing.

Blame was often directed toward “those people from Chicago.”

Race and race-related perceptions and characterizations figured prominently in public statements concerning the emerging controversy.

Many residents of the area vigorously expressed their worries and concerns both in the public media and at meetings of the City Council. Acting on their concerns, they strongly urged the City Council to impose a curfew on juveniles throughout the city. Other residents of the area believed that people were overreacting to false perceptions about violence in the neighborhood and worried that the proposed curfew would be enforced disproportionately against youth of color.

In September the City Council approved the first reading of a curfew ordinance by a 4-3 vote, but it deferred a vote on a second reading. On December 1 the City Council approved the second reading of the ordinance, again by 4-3.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen has played an important role in reporting on these various events, and in publishing editorials and reader responses concerning them. Much of this public commentary has itself become controversial, especially but not exclusively with regard to race.

Maps and collectively-shared mental images (“neighborhood imaginaries”) have been influencing behavior and public decision making in the Iowa City area, especially with regard to defining the problem, making claims about what should be done about it, and altering public policies and jurisdictional boundaries in response to it. 

Facilitator: Assistant Professor Bridget Tsemo, Assistant Professor in Rhetoric and African American Studies
Panel: Associate Professor David Bennett, Department of Geography; Assistant Professor Rick Funderburg, Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning: Professor James A. Throgmorton, Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning.

Press-Citizen Blog:

Upcoming Events:

Wednesday, April 7th 6:30-8:15 pm. Grant Wood Elementary School, 1930 Lakeside Drive
Stories Matter: Creating Community and Boundaries Through Stories About the "Southeast Side"