neighborhood improvement efforts. Some texts
suggest that the kind of information systems necessary for neighborhood planning include demo-graphics, history of the neighborhood, land use information, housing qual-ity, and so on. Such texts seldom explain how planners and communityleaders can uselocalized historicalinformationaboutthe neighborhood orthe collective memory
of residents to prepare for action.One methodological realm that offers great potential for gaining addi-tional knowledge and strategy is oral history. The value of oral interviewshas been revealed in a number of previous studies on community develop-ment, notably by Herbert Rubin,
but the use of oral history in communitydevelopmenthasbeencommentedonlessoften.Iwilldefinespecificnarra-tive-relatedneedsforneighborhoodplanning,explorethepotentialfororalhistory, offer examples from interviews in two Detroit neighborhoods, andsuggestwaysinwhichprofessionalhistoriansmightfurtheraidthisprocess.
SPECIAL NEEDS OF NEIGHBORHOOD PLANNING
We will begin with a short exploration of the concept of neighborhoodplanning,whichisbasedontheneighborhoodastheprimaryunitofanaly-sis. As Peterman notes in his book
Neighborhood Planning and Commu- nity-Based Development
, the concept of neighborhood used by urbaniststodayisnotagreeduponbyall,inpartbecause“theneighborhood”actuallyis a relatively new concept in human history.
Much of what the planningprofessionacceptsasaneighborhoodreallyreferstoaconceptthatismoreakin to a mid-twentieth-century residential subdivision, as designed formiddle- or upper-class families. Some refer to work such as Gans’s
as proof of the existence of neighborhoods as a social construct,but Peterman reminds us that Gans argues that “ethnic villagers” made uponly one type of at least five kinds of residents in contemporary cities andthatconglomerationsofpeoplevariedwidely.
Inasimilarvein,JaneJacobsnotes that city people are mobile and tend to pick friends and colleaguesfromthroughouttheentirecity,andsoshearguesthattheconceptofneigh-borhoodshouldbeveryfluid.
Petermanreviewsthesevariousperspectivesandconcludesbysuggestingthataneighborhood,orwhatweconsidertobea neighborhood, may differ for different times and different places.
Thismightexplainwhytheconceptofneighborhoodseemsmorecompellingforsomeresidentialareas(insomecities)thanforothers;theterm“neighbor-hood planning,” for example, is more likely to refer to central-city neigh-borhoods than outer-ring suburban neighborhoods.Peterman also pointsoutthat the definition of“neighborhood planning”varies greatly among urban scholars. Jane Jacobs essentially views thesmallestlevelofneighborhoodasthestreetlevelandthereforeimpliesthatthis is the level at which some planning should take place. Bernie Jonesdefines neighborhood planning as a smaller version of citywide planning,
Thomas / USES OF ORAL HISTORY 51