The Edge and the Center: Gated Communities and the Discourse of Urban Fear

Author(s): Setha M. Low
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 45-58
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
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SETHA
M. Low
in Environmental
Ph.D.Programs
PsychologyandAnthropology
Centerof theCityUniversityof New York
TheGraduate
New York,New York10016

The Edge and the Center:Gated Communities
and the Discourseof UrbanFear
arecreatingnewformsof exclusionandresiandupper-middle-class
AcrossAmerica,middle-class
gatedcommunities
socialcleavagesthatalreadyexist(BlakelyandSnyder1997;Higley1995;Langand
dentialsegregation,
exacerbating
werebuiltin theUnitedStatesto prosecuredandgatedcommunities
Danielson1997;Marcuse1997).Whilehistorically
nowtargeta muchbroader
tectestatesandto containtheleisureworldof retirees,theseurbanandsuburban
developments
to securedenclaveswithwalls,gates,
familieswithchildren(Guterson
1992;Lofland1998).Thisretreat
market,including
andsymbolically
contradicts
American
ethosandvalues,threatens
andguardsmaterially
publicaccessto openspace,and
toleranceof diverseculas wellas increased
to socialinteraction,
createsyet anotherbarrier
buildingof socialnetworks,
Devine
Etzoni
Judd
McKenzie
1996;
1995;
1995;
1992;
1994).
(Davis
groups
tural/racial/social
Inthispaper,I explorehowthediscourseof fearof violenceandcrimeandthesearchfora securecommunity
by those
in theUnitedStateslegitimates
andrationalizes
exclusionstrategiesandresiclass-based
wholive in gatedcommunities
culturaldiversityarefleeingneighborI examinewhetherresidentsof citiesexperiencing
dentialsegregation.
increasing
a "lossof place"andthereforefeel unsafeandinsecure(AltmanandLow 1992).
hoodsbecausetheyhaveexperienced
that
to thisloss by choosingto buyintoa defensivespace,a walledandguarded
Somepeopleareresponding
community
they can call home. [gated communities,UnitedStates,urbanfear]

studiesof thecityfoanthropological

cus predominantlyon the center, producingethContemporary

nographiesof culturallysignificantplaces such as
markets, housing projects, gardens, plazas, convention
centers, waterfrontdevelopments,and homeless shelters
that articulatemacro- and micro- urbanprocesses (Low
1999). These studies illuminate both the material and
metaphoricalpower of spatialanalysis for theorizingthe
city. One problem,however,is the perpetuationof an uneasy relationshipbetweensuburbanandurbanstudies.The
historical division between "rural"and "urban"exacerbatesthistendencyby sortingresearchersinto separatedisciplinaryandmethodologicalcamps.
The shift to a spatialanalysisof the city requiresreconsideringthis separationin thatcontradictionsandconflicts
at the centerareoften drawnmore vividly at the edge.' So
we find thatthe suburban"mallingof America"is a spatial
and the de-industricounterpartof economicrestructuring
alization of centralcities (Zukin 1991); and the cultural
diversityand racialtensionsof the centerare reflectedin
the segregationand social homogeneity of the suburbs
(MasseyandDenton 1988).The gatedresidentialdevelopment is particularlyintriguing,mirroringchangesin social
values thataccompanyrapidglobalization.Understanding
this spatial form, its historicaland culturalcontext, and

why residentschoose to live thereprovidesan important
perspectiveon the centralcity thatis oftenoverlooked.
Fora majorityof Americansthe distancefromsuburbto
city, or from workto home, is maintainedthrougha complex social discourse.Anti-urbansentimentis often expressedas fearof violenceandcrimethatis saidto pervade
the city. Withingated communities,though,the intensity
of the discourseof urbanfearsuggestsotherunderlyingsocietal explanations.In this study,I explorethe complexinterconnectionsbetween this discourse,loss of a sense of
place,andincreasingclass separation.I suggestthatadding
walls, gates, andguardsproducesa landscapethatencodes
class relations and residential(race/class/ethnic/gender)
segregationmore permanentlyin the built environment
(Low 1997). Understandinghow this landscapeis legitimatedby a discourseof fearof crimeandviolencehelpsto
uncoverhow thisdesignformis materiallyandrhetorically
created.
I use thematiccontentanalysisto documentthe existence of urbanfear in its manyforms and its influenceon
residents'residentialnarratives.Criticaldiscourseanalysis
providesa complementarymethodologyfor decodingtalk
abouturbanfearas an acceptable,sociallyconstructeddiscourseaboutclass exclusionandracial/ethnic/cultural
bias.
The use of urbanfeardiscoursereinforcesresidents'claims

AmericanAnthropologist103(1):45-58. Copyright? 2001, AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation

46

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ANTHROPOLOGIST

for their need to live behind gates and walls because of
dangersor "others"thatlurkoutside.

Unlocking the Gated Community
Estimatesof the numberof people who live in gated
communitieswithinthe UnitedStatesvaryfrom4 million
to 8 million (ArchitecturalRecord 1997). One-thirdof all
new homes builtin the UnitedStatesin recentyearsarein
gated residential developments (Blakely and Snyder
1997), andin areassuchas Tampa,Florida,wherecrimeis
a high-profileproblem,gatedcommunitiesaccountfor four
out of five homesalesof $300,000 or more(Fischler1998).
Systemsof walls andclass divisionaredeeplyingrained
in historicEuropeas a meansof wealthypeopleprotecting
themselvesfromthe local population(BlakelyandSnyder
1997; Turner1999). In the United States,the early settlementsof RoanokeandJamestownand Spanishforttowns
were walledanddefendedto protectcolonistsfromattack.
But with the virtualeliminationof the indigenouspopulation,theneedfordefensivewallsceasedto exist(King1990).
At the turnof the twentiethcentury,securedand gated
communitiesin the UnitedStateswerebuiltto protectfamily estates and wealthy citizens, exemplified by New
York's TuxedoParkor the privatestreetsof St. Louis.By
the late 1960s and 1970s, plannedretirementcommunities
were the first places where middle-classAmericanscould
wall themselvesoff. Gatesthenspreadto resortsandcountry club developments,and finally to middle-classsuburbandevelopments.In the 1980s, realestatespeculationacceleratedthe buildingof gated communitiesaroundgolf
coursesdesignedfor exclusivity,prestige,andleisure.This
emergingsocial phenomenonof white, middle-classpeople retreatingto new, walled privatecommunitieswas reported in magazine articles (Guterson 1992), radio talk
shows on National Public Radio, television talk shows
such as Phil Donahue(Donahue1993), andfeaturearticles
in the New YorkTimes(Fischler1998).
The first centersof constructionactivitywere the Sunbelt states focusing on retireesmoving to Californiaand
Floridaduringthe 1970s, followed by Texas and Arizona
in the 1980s.Since the late 1980s, gateshavebecomeubiquitous,andby the 1990s they have become commoneven
in the Northeast(BlakelyandSnyder1997).
The literatureon gatedcommunitiesidentifiesa number
of reasonsfor their increasein numberand size. I argue
elsewherethat gating is a responseto late-twentieth-century changes in urbanNorth America (Low 1997). Economic restructuring
duringthe 1970s and 1980s produced
a numberof social andpoliticalchangesas a consequence
of unevendevelopmentresultingfrom rapidrelocationof
capital(Harvey1990;Smith 1984). The shift to the political rightduringtheReaganyears,andthe mixtureof conservatism and populismin U.S. politics, intensifiedan ideological focus on free marketand capitalistvalues tilting

power, wealth,and income towardthe richestportionsof
the population(Phillips1991). While the income shareof
the upper20%of Americansrose from41.6%to 44%from
1980 to 1988, the averageafter-taxincome of the lowest
ten percentdropped10.5% from 1977 to 1987 (Phillips
1991),producinga two-classsystemof "haves"and"havenots"based on these structuralreadjustmentsto late capitalism(MollenkopfandCastells1991).
Mike Davis (1990, 1992) argues that the creationof
gatedcommunities,andthe additionof guardhouses,walls,
andentrancegatesto establishedneighborhoods,is an integralpartof the buildingof the "fortresscity."He identifies
the so-calledmilitarizationof Los Angeles as a strategyfor
controllingandpatrollingthe urbanpoorthatis madeup of
predominantlyethnic-Latino and Black-minorities.2
Susan Fainsteinadds that large developmentprojectsin
cities like New York and Londonproducethis builtenvironmentby forming:
contourswhichstructure
socialrelations,
causingcommonalitiesof gender,sexualorientation,
race,ethnicity,andclassto
assumespatialidentities.
Socialgroups,in turn,imprint
themselvesphysicallyontheurbanstructure
throughtheformation
of communities,competitionfor territory,and segregation-in other words,throughclustering,the erectionof
andestablishing
distance.[1994:1]
boundaries,
The politicaland economic democraticpracticesmediating some forms of class separationin the United States,
however,arenot foundin Brazil(Caldeira1996;Carvalho
1997), otherpartsof LatinAmerica(Low 1996), or South
Africa (Western 1981) where gated condominiumsand
fortifiedenclaves are omnipresent.TeresaCaldeiraexamines Sio Paulo's economic transformationfrom 1940
throughthe 1980sthatresultedin increasedviolence,insecurity, and fear, such that Sio Paulo became a "city of
walls"(1999:87).Throughfield visits, I have observedthe
use of walls, gates,locks,andguardsby the upperandmiddle classes in Nairobi,Accra,Dakar,Mexico City, andCaracasto protectresidentsfrom assaultand propertycrime
and/orthe consequencesof politicalupheaval(Low n.d.).
Although the cross-culturalexamples of gating appear
similar, their histories and attributedcausationvary tremendously:fromracismin SouthAfrica,to propertyvandalism in Accra,kidnappingand robberyin Mexico City,
andcarjackingandhomicidein Nairobi.3
The processesthatproduceurbanand suburbanseparation in the UnitedStatesalso have a long historybasedon
racism and racial segregation.Blacks in U.S. cities continue to experiencea high level of residentialsegregation
basedon discriminatory
realestatepracticesandmortgage
structuresdesignedto insulateWhites from Blacks (BullardandLee 1994;MasseyandDenton 1988).NancyDenton (1994) arguesthatsince the 1980s therehas beena pattern of hyper-segregationin the suburbs,reinforcedby
patternsof residentialmobilityby race in thatBlacks are

Low

less likely to move to the suburbsin the firstplace,andthen
morelikely to returnto the city (SouthandCrowder1997).
Sally Merryfound thatmiddle-classand upper-middleclass urban and suburbanneighborhoodsexhibit an increasing patternof building fences, cutting off relationships with neighbors, and moving out in response to
problemsand conflicts. At the same time: "Government
has expandedits regulatoryrole. ... Zoninglaws, local police departments,ordinancesaboutdogs, quiet laws, laws
against domestic and interpersonalviolence, all provide
new forms of regulationof family and neighborhoodlife"
(1993:87).In this issue, Merryarguesthatthe regulationof
space througharchitecturaldesign and security devices
such as gated communitiesis generallyunderstoodas a
complementto disciplinarypenalty,andthatthis new spatial govemmentalityis fundamentallydifferentin its logic
and techniques.Thus, residentialsegregationcreatedby
prejudiceand socioeconomic disparitiesis reinforcedby
by zoninglaws
planningpracticesandpolicing,implemented
andregulations,andsubsidizedby businessesandbanks.
The suburbas an exclusionaryenclave where upperclass followed by middle-classresidentssearchfor sameness, status,andsecurityin an ideal "newtown"or "green
oasis"reinforcesthesepatterns(Langdon1994;McKenzie
1994). Landspeculationbeginningwith the streetcar suburbsof Philadelphiaacceleratedthe growthof new middleclass enclaves (Jackson1985). The expandingsuburbsof
the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s generated"whiteflight"from
densely populated, heterogeneous cities (Sibley 1995;
Skogan1995).
The development of common interest developments
(CIDs)providesthe legal frameworkfor the consolidation
of this form of residentialsegregation(Judd 1995). CID
describes"acommunityin whichthe residentsown or control commonareasor sharedamenities,"and that"carries
with it reciprocalrightsand obligationsenforcedby a private governing body" (Louv 1985:85 as cited in Judd
1995:155).Specializedcovenants,contracts,and deed restrictions(CC&Rs)createnew formsof collectiveprivate
land tenureand new forms of privategovernmentcalled
"homeownerassociations"(McKenzie1994).
The "pod"and "enclave"suburbandesigns furtherrefine the ability of land-useplannersand designersto develop suburbanenvironmentswherepeopleof differentincome groups--even in the same development-would
have little to no contactwith one another(Langdon1994).
Residentbehavior,house type, and "tasteculture,"however, are more subtle means of control(Bourdieu1984).
Nancy and James Duncan(1997) demonstratehow landscapeaestheticsfunctionas suburbanpoliticsof exclusion,
and Evan McKenzie (1994) documents the growing
numberof legal proceedingsin Californiacourtsas residentsattemptto deregulatetheirrigidlycontrolledenvironments.

/ THE EDGE AND THE CENTER

47

The psychological lure of defended space becomes
moreenticingwith increasedmediacoverageandnational
hysteria about urban crime (Flusty 1997; Judd 1995).
News stories chronicle daily murders,rapes, drive-by
shootings,drug busts, and kidnapping.An ever-growing
proportionof peoplefearthatthey will be victimized,such
that the fear of crime has increasedsince the mid-1960s
even thoughtherehas been a decline in all violent crime
since the 1980s (Colvard1997; Judd 1995; Stone 1996).
Violent crime(homicide,robbery,sexual assault,and aggravatedassault)fell 12% nationallybetween 1994 and
1995,while propertycrime(burglary,theft,andautotheft)
declined9% (BrennanandZelinka1997).
BarryGlassner(1999) points out thatwe are inundated
with mediareportsaboutthe prevalenceof crimeand violence creatinga "cultureof fear." But when the actual
crimestatisticsareconsulted,the realityis neveras grimor
devastatingas the newspaperand televisionportrayal.For
example,parentsareoverwhelmedby the amountof media
attentiongiven to child abductionand cyberporn.A Time
articleestimatingthatmore than 800,000 childrenare reported missing every year perpetuateda nationalpanic
(Glassner 1999:61). According to Glassner,three out of
four parentsin a nationalsurvey said they fear theirchild
will be kidnappedby a stranger.Criminaljustice experts,
however,estimatethatonly 200 to 300 childrena yearare
abductedby non-familymembersand kept for long periods of time or murdered,while 4,600 (of 64 million children)are abductedand then returned.He makesthe point
thatreportersoverstatethe actualthreatto adddrama,convince an editor,orjustify moreextensivemediacoverage.
His answerto why Americansharborso manyfearsis that
"immensepowerand money awaitthose who tap into our
moral insecuritiesand supply us with symbolic substitutes"(Glassner1999:xxviii).
Therehas been considerableresearchthatlinks fear of
crimeto the physicalenvironment.Althoughnoneof it focuses specificallyon gated communities,it suggestshow
communitiesandindividualsdeal with fearwithinthe context of a local neighborhood.Urbanethnographiessuggest
thatfamiliarity,avoidance,andsurveillanceplay important
roles in allayingthesefears.SallyMerry(1982) documents
the interactionsandperceptionsof Black,White,andChinese residentsin a high-rise,low-incomeprojectin a large
Northeasterncity and concludes that lack of familiarity
plays an importantrolein theperceptionof danger.Eli Anderson(1990) documentsavoidanceas a copingstrategyin
his study of "streetwise"behavior of Philadelphiansin
whichresidentscrossthe streetwhen faced withoncoming
young Black males. PhilippeBourgois (1995) dramatizes
the fearandsense of vulnerabilityexperiencedby residents
of El Barrioand depictstheir strategiesof avoidanceand
surveillanceused to deal with streetcrime.These studies
describehow fear is spatiallymanagedin urbancontexts,

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and how avoidance and streetwisebehaviorare used by
low- to middle-incomepeopleto mitigatetheirfears.
Environmentaldesign studies also connect crime with
the builtenvironmentbeginningwithJaneJacobs's(1961)
recommendationsfor creatingsafer streetsand neighborhoods. But it was OscarNewman(1972) who broughtthe
relationshipof crime and the physicalenvironmentto the
attentionof the public.He arguesthatthe reasonhigh-rise
buildingsare considereddangerousis thatthe people who
live in them cannotdefend-see, own, or identify-their
territory.Newman proposes that gating city streets can
promotegreatersafety andhigherhouse values as long as
the percentageof minorityresidentsis kept within strict
limits (Newman 1980). TimothyCrowe (1991), a criminologist who coined the phrase"crimepreventionthrough
environmentaldesign (CPTED),"has instituteda widespreadCPTEDprogramthatinvolves all local agenciespolice, fire, public works, traffic,and administration-as
well as plannersin the formulationandreviewof neighborhood plans and designs implementingNewman's defensive spaceconcepts.
Thesediversestudiesdepicta social worldwith increasing relianceon urbanfortification,policing, and segregation. A numberof legal solutionshave emerged,such as
common interestdevelopmentsand homeownersassociations,planningsolutionssuchas pod andenclavedevelopment, design solutions such as crime preventionthrough
environmentaldesign, and behavioralsolutions such as
avoidanceand surveillanceof the street.Gatedcommunities respondto middle-classand upper-middle-classindividuals' desire for communityand intimacyand facilitate
avoidance,separation,andsurveillance.Theybringindividualpreferences,social forces,andthephysicalenvironment
togetherin an architectural
realityandculturalmetaphor.
a
national
Upon completing
surveyof gatedcommunity
residents,EdwardBlakely andMaryGail Snydercome to
a similarconclusion:
In this era of dramaticdemographic,
economicand social
change,thereis a growingfearaboutthefutureof America.
unsureof theirplaceandthestabilityof
Manyfeelvulnerable,
theirneighborhoods.
... Thisis reflectedin anincreasing
fear
of crimethatis unrelated
to actualcrimetrendsor locations,
andin the growingnumbersof methodsusedto controlthe
for physicaland economicsecurity.
physicalenvironment
Thephenomenon
of walledcitiesandgatedcommunities
is a
dramatic
manifestation
of a newfortressmentality
growingin
America.[1997:1-2]
Methodology
Research Setting
The studyis based on two gatedcommunities,each locatedat the edge of a culturallydiversecity withpublicized
incidentsof urbancrime.San AntonioandNew YorkCity

are known for their multiculturalism,culturalinclusiveness, as well as interethnicconflicts resultingfrom rapid
changesin neighborhoodcomposition.Bothcities have increasingsocioeconomicdisparities,a historyof residential
segregation,and a documentedmovementof middle-class
residentsmoving to an ever widening outer ring of suburbs. They also provide excellent comparativecases because of differencesbetween them in (1) populationsize
anddensity,(2) historyof gatedcommunitydevelopment,
(3) scale and design of the gated communities,(4) legal
and governmentalstructure,(5) crimeratesfor the region,
and(6) culturalcontextandnormsof behavior.Becauseof
the complexityand size of New York City, I use Queens,
the outerboroughadjacentto the studysite, to describethe
culturalcontext,populationsize, and crime statisticsrelevantto thisanalysis.Manyof the residentscitedin this article movedfromQueensto theirgatedcommunity.
San Antonio is a medium-sizecity with an estimated
populationof 1,464,356 inhabitantsin 1995. The city began in the eighteenthcenturyas a cohesion of different
Spanishmissions and has retainedmuch of its MexicanSpanish heritage. Since 1990, Texas has accountedfor
14%of all newjobs createdin the UnitedStates,including
rapid growth in high-tech manufacturingcausing labor
shortagesof highly trainedworkers.Populationgrowthin
the MetropolitanStatistical Area (MSA)4 grew 21.5%
from 1980 to 1990 and an additional10.1%from 1990 to
1994 (America'sTop-RatedCities 1997).This increasein
skilledjobs andnumbersof residentsstimulatedconstruction of new middle-classsuburbsanda downtownrenovation projectknown as Riverwalk.It was in San Antonio
thatI first gained entranceto a numberof homes located
withina locked,gated,and walled communityon the outskirts of the city and found young, white, middle-class
teenagersdiscussing their fear of "Mexicans"who live
nearby.
San Antonio'shigh ratesof crime-7,993.9 crimesper
100,000in the city comparedto 3,906.3 per 100,000in the
suburbsin 1995--occur in poorer,urbanneighborhoods
and not in the suburbanareas(U.S. Departmentof Justice
1995). In 1995, murderoccurredalmost four times more
frequently in the city than in the suburbs-14.2 per
100,000 comparedto 3.7 per 100,000;robberiesoccurred
morethanfive times morefrequently-234.5 per 100,000
comparedto 42.4 per 100,000. Nevertheless, suburban
residents feel afraid. They read about kidnappingand
drive-byshootings,or they hear storiesfrom theirfriends
of burglariesin the suburbs.One residentcalledit a "crime
movement"at one point in the interview-an interesting
commentarythatcapturesthe "wavesof crime"reportedin
San Antonio'sonly newspaper,the San AntonioExpressNews.
New York City, in comparisonto San Antonio, is a
Locatedon the
globalcityof morethan7 millioninhabitants.
easternseaboard,New YorkCityhasbeena majorentryway

/ THE EDGE AND THE CENTER

Low

for immigrantsfromEurope,via Ellis Island,andmorerecently from Africa, parts of Asia, and the Middle East.
Queens,the easternmostborough,is knownfor its cultural
diversity and ethnic neighborhoodswhere over 138 languages arespoken(Sanjek1998).Queensbecameincorporatedinto New YorkCityin 1897, linkedby boththe Long
Island Railroadand electric trolleys to Brooklyn,and to
ferriesfrom Long IslandCity (Gregory
Manhattan-bound
1998). Witha populationof 1,966,685in 1997, it provides
a bettercomparisonto SanAntoniobecauseof its scaleand
proximityto LongIslandsuburbs.
Even though Seagatein Brooklyn is an example of a
gated communitybuilt more thanone hundredyears ago,
and doormanbuildingsof Manhattanhave guardedentrances, there are only a few gated residentialdevelopments in New York City. In Queens,thereare only three
gated condominiumcomplexescomprisedof townhouses
and apartments.The loss of manufacturing
jobs-10 million squarefeet of industrialspace has been convertedto
retail,residential,or office space-as well as lowersalaries
and lack of availableland for developmentmay account
for this slow growth.AlthoughQueens is the most economically diverse of the New York City boroughswith
trade,and service each acmanufacturing,transportation,
for
at
least
10%
of
privatesectorjobs in 1998, it
counting
has not experiencedthe same acceleratedgrowth in the
servicesectoras the restof New YorkCity (McCall2000).
Further,in the early 1990s,higherpayingjobs werebeing
replacedwith lowerpayingones as growthoccurredin areas offeringloweraveragesalaries(McCall2000).

49

NassauCounty,Long Island,on the otherhand,experienced a resurgenceof residentialdevelopment,some of it
gated,followingthe declineof the realestatemarketin the
early 1990s. Witha populationof 1,298,842in 1997,Nassau Countyabutsthe easternboundaryof Queensandprovides a suburbancomparisonfor the analysisof crimestatistics.
Crimerateshave fallen much fasteraroundNew York
City thanin the nation.From 1990 to 1995, violentcrime
haddropped44.4%in New YorkCity comparedto a 6.5%
dropfor the nationas a whole.But the rateof violentcrime
is still double the nationalaverage, with 1,324 violent
crimes per 100,000 for New York City and 685 violent
crimesper 100,000 for the UnitedStatesreportedin 1996
(New YorkTimes 1997).Propertycrimehas experienceda
similardropwitha declineof 47%in New YorkCity comparedto 9.7%for thenationfrom 1990to 1995 (New York
Times 1997). Urbancrime rates,though, are still higher
thanthose in the suburbs.For example,in 1997 the total
numberof crimesof all types was 95,751 for Queenswith
a populationof 1,966,685comparedto 29,770 for Nassau
Countywith a populationof 1,298,842-about double5in
the city comparedto the suburb.Forviolentcrimes,suchas
murder,the differenceis even greaterwith 207 murdersin
Queensand26 murdersin NassauCountyreportedin 1997
(NationalArchiveof CriminalJusticeData 1997).
New suburbanhousingdevelopmentswith surrounding
walls and restrictivegates located approximatelythirty
minutesdrive from their respectivedowntowncity halls
were selectedat the edge of each city. Single-familyhouse

:~~

:i

::

j
.

-._
.:....•........ .
..

Figure 1. Gatedentry.

50

* VOL. 103, No. 1 * MARCH2001
AMERICAN
ANTHROPOLOGIST

:j i
i - --: - . i
:::----?
??
: :? ?
:i:i i;
i : :i
:--.

-i ::

-iiii'--Zlii-::,
i i?i.
: ii
:?
i-:-:-::--;-_::::;1---:
- ::::::;j-:
-. -

Figure 2. Walls and wide streets.Authoron-site.

pricesrangedfrom$650,000 to $880,000in New Yorkand
$350,000 to $650,000 in San Antonioin 1995.6 Eachgated
communityhas its own regionalstyle and distinctivedesign features,butall areenclosedby a five- to six-footmasonrywall brokenonly by the entrygatesandmonitoredin
personby a guard(New York) or by video camerafroma
centralguardhouse(SanAntonio)(Figure1).
The New Yorkdevelopmentis situatedon an old estate
with the originalmanorhouse retainedas a community
center. The individualhouses are large (approximately
3,500 to 4,500 squarefeet), mostly two-storystructures,
built in a varietyof traditionalstyles: HamptonCottage,
NantucketVillage, Mid-AtlanticColonial, and Western
Ranch.Houses are organizedalong a windingthoroughfarewith dead-endstreetsbranchingoff, leadingto groups
of houses clusteredquite close togetheron small lots of
less thana thirdof an acre.The remainingpropertyis landscapedto createa park-likeatmosphere.Since the community was developedas a communityinterestdevelopment,
all of the common groundsare maintainedby the homeownersassociation.The final communitywill contain141
houses, tenniscourts,a swimmingpool, and a clubhouse.

Not all the lots have been purchased,and houses are still
beingbuilt.
The San Antonio gated communityis part of a much
largernorthernsuburbandevelopmentcenteredon a private golf andtennisclub with swimmingpools, restaurant,
and clubhouse.The subdivisionincludes 120 lots, a few
frontingone section of the golf course, surroundedby a
six-foot masonrywall (Figure 2). The main entranceis
controlledby a grid-designgate that swings opens electronicallyby a handtransmitteror by a guardwho is contactedby an intercomand video cameraconnection.The
broadentranceroaddividesinto two sectionsleadingto a
seriesof shortstreetsendingin cul-de-sacs.The housesare
mostly large (3,500-5,500 square feet), two-storybrick
Colonials or stucco Scottsdaledesigns (Figure3) with a
few one-storybrick ranch-stylehouses. More than twothirdsof the houses have been built and occupied,while
the remaininglots arecurrentlyunderconstruction.
Research Design and Specific Methods
Field methods included open-ended interviews with
within and aroundthe
residents,participant-observation

Low

/

THE EDGE AND THE CENTER

51

il

-i~.~
liiVMS

Figure 3. Scottsdale-stylehouse.

communities,interviewswith key informantssuch as the
developers and real estate agents, and the collection of
marketing, sales, and advertising documents. An unstructuredinterview guide was developed to elicit residents' decision-makingprocessesconcerningtheirmove
to the gated community. The researchteam7collected
field notes and interviews in the New York area,while I
worked alone in San Antonio. The interviews lasted between one to two hours,dependingon whetherthe interviewer was taken on a tour of the house. We did not ask
to be taken on a tour, but many times interviewees offered, and we used the tour to learn more aboutthe person's tastes, interests,andpreferences.
It was difficult to obtainentryinto these communities
and to contact residents. A sales managerin the gated
community outside of New York City helped by contacting two residents she thought would be willing to
speak with us. We then used introductionseither from
the sales manager or from other interviewees to complete the first ten interviews. In San Antonio, a locaf
resident provided entree by contacting two residents;
those residentsreferredfour others,andI met threeinterviewees strollingon the golf pathon the weekends.

were limited,
Opportunitiesfor participant-observation
but it was possibleto talkwithpeople while they wereexercisingor walkingtheirdogs, attendinghomeownerand
club meetings,andparticipatingin neighborhoodcelebrations.Further,
spendingtimein thelocalcommercialareasshopping, going to restaurants,and visiting real estate
agents-provided othercontextsfor learningabouteveryday life.
Open-ended,unstructuredinterviews were conducted
in the home with the wife, husband,or husbandand wife
together over a three-year period from 1995 to 1998.
The majorityof the intervieweeswere EuropeanAmericans and native born,however, three interviewswere in
households where one spouse was born in Latin America, one interviewee was born in the South Pacific, and
one interviewee's spouse was born in the Middle East.
Interviewees were aged 27 through 75; all husbands
were either professionals such as doctors or lawyers,
businessmen, or retired from these same pursuits. In
most cases the wives remainedat home, while the husband commuted to his place of work. A few women
workedpart-time.

52

* VOL. 103, No. 1 * MARCH 2001
AMERICANANTHROPOLOGIST

and the relationshipof politics to methodologyalso informsmy analysis.
Nineteen of the twenty interviewswere transcribedin
Ethnographicanalysis
Next, I readthroughthe interviewtranscriptsandsysfull.8
The ethnographicanalysis of participant-observation
noted all instancesin which the covert contematically
field notes focused on identifyingempiricalevidence of
cerns (see above) were discussedor alludedto. This procchangesin the local environment.Further,it produceddata
ess producedthe body of the dataset. In the final stage, I
on casual conversationsand everyday observationsthat
identifieddifferentstrategiesused to talk aboutliving in a
naturallyoccurredandprovideda test of ecological validgated community.The details of the linguistic construcity for data collected throughthe interviews.Field notes
tionswiththeirimmediatefunctionsproducedan outlineof
werecodedby the themesthatemergedduringthe research
the ideologicalstructureof the conversation.The goal was
process.
not to quantifythe occurrenceof particularthemesor rhetoricalstrategies,but, more importantly,to illustratetheir
Contentanalysis
situatedeffects (Dixon andReicher1997:368)
A thematiccontentanalysisof the interviewsanddocuThe Search for Safety and Security
ments collectedfromthe media,marketing,and sales materialsprovidedboth a qualitativeand quantitativeunderA majorityof intervieweesperceivean increaseof the
standing of the range of discourse available. The
crime in their urbanneighborhoodsbefore moving to a
interviewswerecodedbasedon themesidentifiedin theingated community.Eighteenof the twenty interviewsinterviews and in the ethnographicfieldwork. The list of
clude discussionsof residents'searchfor a sense of safety
themesprovideda qualitativepresentationof the data.Deandsecurityin theirchoiceof a gatedcommunity,andtheir
pendingon the numberand specificityof the themes,they
relief uponsettlingin thatthey did feel saferand moresewere consolidatedto allow for a quantitativepresentation curewiththe additionof
gates,walls,andguards.Manyin(ranking,numbering,calculationof percentages)of the exterviewees mentionchanges in social compositionof the
pressionof thosethemes.
surroundingareasas a primarymotivationfor moving,and
the loss of local amenities,particularlyin the New York
Critical discourse analysis
area.Intervieweesalso talk aboutthe investmentvalue of
the house, the statusimplicationsof theirmove, and their
A criticaldiscourseanalysisof the 20 interviewsidentineed for more space and privacy,but these concerns are
fied covertconcernswithsocialorder,social control,xenonotexaminedin this analysis.
phobia, ethnocentrism,class consciousness and status
One noteworthyfindingis thatonce a personlives in a
anxiety, social mobility, and racism, as well as fear of
gatedcommunity,they say thatthey wouldalwayschoose
crime and violence,andovertexpressionsof a desirefor a
a gatedcommunityagain,even if safety was not the basis
new home, beautifulsetting,andsense of community.Folof theirinitial decision. Threeof the twenty interviewees
lowing Fairclough(1995), I assumethatlanguageis a form
had
lived previouslyin gated developments:one family
of social practicethatis historicallysituatedanddialectical
livedin LatinAmericawheretheyenjoyedthe securityof a
to the social context, that is, language is both socially
and guardedcompound;one family retiredfirst in
gated
shapedandsociallyshaping.Since languageis widely perFlorida
wheremost retirementcommunitiesaregated;and
ceived as transparent,it is difficult to see how language
one
marriedwomanhad lived in a gatedcondominnewly
produces,reproduces,andtransformssocial structuresand
ium complex.These couplesdid not even considera nonsocial relations.Yet, it is throughtexts that social control
gatedcommunitywhenlookingfor a new home.
and social dominationare exercised-through the everyday social action of language.Thus, it is necessaryto esNew York
tablisha "criticallanguageawareness"(Fairclough1995:
209) to uncoverthe social and politicalgoals of everyday
Nine of the ten intervieweesin New York mentionurdiscourse. Critical discourse analysis, through (1) the
bancrime as a majorreasonfor selectinga gatedcommuanalysis of context, (2) the analysis of processes of text
nity. The tenth interviewee,althoughshe says that crime
and (3) the analysis of the
productionand interpretation,
and safety had no bearingon why they moved, mentions
traditional
models
of interviewanalysis.
text, reinterprets
thatin her old neighborhoodher car had been stolen from
For instance,in Fairclough'stheory,urbanfear of crime
outsideherdoor.
and violence could be a discursivepracticeused to "natuNine of the ten intervieweesare fromthe local areaand
ralize"social and physicalexclusionarypractices,as well
movedfromNew YorkCity or a nearbyLongIslandurban
as a statementof emotionand/orexplanationfor an action
center.Many are quite vocal aboutthe changes that they
or decision.CharlesBriggs's(1986)emphasison reflexivity
experiencedin theiroriginalneighborhoods.For instance,
Analysis

Low / THE EDGE AND THE CENTER

Sharonis willing to "give up communityconveniencefor
safety."She says that increasedlocal politicalcorruption
andneighborhooddeteriorationleft herfeeling uncomfortable in the house where she had lived for more than
twenty-fiveyears.Even thoughshe knew everyonein her
old neighborhoodandenjoyedwalkingto the comerstore,
whenBloomingdale's
movedoutandKmartmovedin,itjust

broughtin a differentgroup of people ... and it wasn't the
safe place thatit was. ... I thinkit's saferhavinga gatedcommunity.... Theyarenotgoingto stealmy carin thegarage....

[Inthe old neighborhood]
everytimewe heardan alarmwe
werelookingout the window.My daughterandson-in-law
livednextdoorandtheircarwasstolentwice.

BarbaraandherhusbandAlvin expressit differently:
Alvin: [Ourold neighborhood
was] a very,very educated
Youknowso everyonegoeson to college,andit
community.
stressedtheroleof family,andyouknow,it'sjusta wonderful
Butit is changing,
it'sundergoing
internaltranscommunity.
formations.
Barbara:It'sethnicchanges.
Alvin:Yeah,ethnicchanges,
that'saverygoodwayofputting
it
Interviewer: And is this somethingthat started to happen
morerecently?
Barbara: Inthe last,probably,seven to eightyears.

Cynthia also is concerned about staying in her old
neighborhood. At first she did not want to live in a house at
all since she would feel afraid being alone. She had grown
up in Queens and would never live in a house there, because they had been robbed. Her childhood home had been
in a nice neighborhood where thieves knew they could find
valuable things to steal:
Cynthia: Andthen I havea lot of friendswho live in a neigh-

borhoodin Queens,andthere'sbeenmorethan48 robberies
therein thelastyearanda half.AndI saidto myself,thoseare
homeswithsecurityanddogs andthis andthat...
Interviewer: Andaretheygated?

Cynthia:No, they'renot gated.Theyhadalarms,andthey

were gettingrobbedbecausethey were cuttingthe alarms,the
phone wires outside.So I'msayingto myself,all this is in my
mind,andrm saying... I cangetrobbed.That'swhyI moved...

Sally also feels that the neighborhoodwhere she lived
was changing: she was having problems finding a place to
park, and people were going through her trash at night. Her
bicycle was stolen off her terrace, and her friend's car was
stolen. Her husband began to travel a lot, and she could not
accompany her husband on his trips because she was worried about being robbed. They loved their old neighborhood, but it no longer offered safety and comfort. So they
decided to move to a gated community that would provide
the security that she felt they now needed. Once having
made the decision and completed the move, she said that
she loved her newly found freedom from house responsibilities and parking problems. As she put it:

53

I got to feel likeI wasa prisoner
in thehouse.... Youdidn't
parkon thestreettoo longbecauseyou areafraidyourcaris
whenyougetout,orthewhole
goingto bemissingsomething
caris missing.... So there'sa lot of thingswe havethefreedomheretodothatwe didn'tdo before....
Helen commentsthatit was "verynice at nightto come
in ... and to have a gate and there's only one entrance to
the property, so I think that makes for possibly less robberies. .. ." For her, safety is:
not a main concern, but a concern. Otherwise,if I bought
something... on two acres of land, I would have been very
uncomfortablethere ... no children around ... just being
alone now in the dark... and my husbandwould get home
later.Ijust didn'twantto be surroundedby two acresof land.
She has friends (in the old neighborhood) who were burglarized and had become more distressed. She feels the
guards at the entrance are not careful, but it is still difficult
for thieves to escape. Her mother and her children also live
in gated communities.

San Antonio
Nine of the interviewees in San Antonio mention crime
and a fear of "others"as a reason for moving. Stay-at-home
mothers like Felicia and Donna worry about threats to their
children. Felicia states her feelings about her fear of crime
and other people very clearly:
Setha: ... has it changedhow you feel about being in the
gatedcommunity?
Felicia: Yes. It allowsa lot morefreedomfor my daughterto
go outside and play. We'rein San Antonio,and I believe the
whole country knows how many child kidnappingswe've
had.... And I believe that my husbandwould not ever allow
her outsideto playwithoutdirectadultsupervisionunlesswe
were gated.It allowsus freedomto walkat night,if we choose
to. It has,you know,it does havea flipside.
Setha: Whatflipside?
Felicia: Severalthings.Firstof all,it'sa false sense of safetyif
you think about it, because our security people are not
so to speak,and anybodywho wants to
"Johnny-on-the-spot,"
the
could
jump
gate
jumpthe gate.... There'sa perceptionof
safety that may not be real, that could potentiallyleave one
morevulnerableif therewas everan attack.
Setha: Wholives in yourcommunity?
Felicia: People who are retiredand don'twant to maintain
large yards.... People who want to raise familiesin a more
protected environment [long pause].

Setha: Whatdo you meanbythat?
Felicia: Therearea lot of familieswho have,in the last couple
of years, after we built,as the crimerate, or the reportingof
that crimerate,has becomesuch a prominentpartof the news
of the community,there'sbeen a lot of "fearflight."I'vementioned that people who were buildingor going to buildbased

* VOL. 103, No. 1 * MARCH2001
ANTHROPOLOGIST
AMERICAN

54

on wantingto get out of the very exclusivesubdivisionswithout a gate,solelyforthe gate.
Setha: Really.Therehas been?
Felicia: Oh, yeah. I was tellingyou about a familythat was
shopping[for a house in Felicia'sgated community]because
they hadbeen randomlyrobbedmanytimes.
Felicia: WhenI leave the areaentirelyand go downtown[little laugh],I feel quitethreatened,just beingout in normalurban areas,unrestrictedurbanareas.... Pleaselet me explain.
The northcentralpartof this city, by andlarge,is middleclass
to uppermiddleclass. Period.Thereare very few pockets of
poverty.Veryfew. Andthereforeif you go to anystore,you will
look around and most of the clientele will be middle class as

you areyourself.So you are somewhatinsulated.Butif you go
downtown,whichis muchmoremixed,whereeverybodygoes,
I feel muchmorethreatened.
Setha: Okay.

Felicia: Mydaughterfeels verythreatenedwhenshe sees poor
people.
Setha: Howdo you explainthat?
Felicia: She hasn't had enough exposure. We were driving
next to a truckwith some day laborersand equipmentin the
back,andwe were parkedbesidethemat the light.Shewanted
to move because she was afraidthose people were going to
come and get her. They looked scary to her. I explainedthat
they were workmen,they'rethe "backboneof our country,"
they'recomingfromwork,you know,but ...
Donna's concerns with safety also focus on her child
and his reactions to the city. She, like Felicia, is aware that
a false sense of security develops living inside the gates

puttingherandherchildrenin greaterdanger:
Donna: You know, he's always so scared..... It has made a

worldof differencein himsince we'vebeen outhere.
Setha: Really?
Donna: A worldof difference.Andit is thatsense of security
that they don't think people are roamingthe neighborhoods
and the streets and that there'speople out therethatcan hurt
him.
Setha: Ah... that's incredible.
Donna: ... That's what's been most important to my husband,

to get the childrenout here where they can feel safe, and we
feel safe if they could go out in the streetsand not worrythat
someone is going to grab them.... We feel so secure and
maybethat'swrongtoo.
Setha: Inwhatsense?
Donna: You know,we've got workersout here, and we still
think"oh,they'resafe out here".... In the otherneighborhood
I neverlet himget out of my sightfor a minute.Ofcoursethey
were a littlebit youngertoo, but Ijust, wouldnever,you know,
thinkof lettingthem go to the next street over.It wouldhave
scared me to death,because you didn'tknow. Therewas so
muchtrafficcomingin andout,you neverknewwho was cruising the street and how fast they can graba child.And I don't
feel that way in our area at all ... ever.

Other San Antonio interviewees are less dramatic in expressing their concerns with safety and concentrate more

on taxation and the quality of the security system and
guards.Harryandhis wife feel thatthe biggestdifference
with gating is "notjust anyone can come by." They are
more upset aboutthe way that the governmenttreatsprivate gated communitiesin terms of taxation.Karenwas
not even lookingfor a placein a securedarea:
Karen: It wasjust by accidentthatit was [gated].... Butafter

livinghere,if wemovedit wouldbe different.

Setha: Andwhy is that?
Karen: Because afterseeing ... this is a very nice neighbor-

hoodandafterseeingthatthereareso manybeautiful
neighborhoodshere andin otherpartsof the countrythatarenot in

a securearea,that'swhereburglary
andmurderstakeplace,
not here, because it's an open door [there]... come on [in].

Whyshouldtheytryto do anythingherewhentheycan go
somewhere
elsefirst?It'sa strongdeterrent,
needlesstosay.

Otherresidentsare not so surethatthe gates arean adequatedeterrent.Edithtalksaboutherproblemswiththe security guardswho supposedlypatrolat nightand monitor
the gateswithsecuritycameras.She feels the guardsdo not
do theirjob. Anotherintervieweepoints out thatwith any
gate monitoredby a securitycameraand a guardin a remote station,two cars can enterat the same time creating
an unsafesituation.
There seems to be no end to residents'concern with
safety and security.In both New York and San Antonio,
most residentshave burglaralarmsthey keep armedeven
when homeduringtheday.
Critical Discourse Analysis Findings
In orderto get atunderlyingsocial values,I selectedsections of the interviewsthat refer to "others"(see Felicia
andBarbaraandAlvin excerptspresentedabove).I amtrying to get at whatMichaelBillig calls "thedialogicunconscious,"a conceptby whichthe processesof repressioncan
be studieddiscursively(1997:139). I assumethatsome of
the evidenceI am lookingfor is "repressed,"
thatit is hidden not only from the interviewer,because it is socially
unacceptableto talkaboutclass and race,but fromthe intervieweeas well becausethese concernsarealso psychologically unacceptable.According to Billig (1997), conversationalinteractioncan have repressive functions as
well as expressiveones, so what is said can be used to get
at whatis not said.
UsingJohnDixonandSteveReicher'sarticle"Intergroup
Contactand Desegregationin the New SouthAfrica"as a
model, I focus on the rhetoricaldimensionof intergroup
contactto elicit narrativesaboutmaintaining,justifying,or
challengingracist(orelitist)practices(1997:368-369).For
instance, Dixon and Reicher identify a numberof "disclaiming statements"abouttheirinterviewees'racistattitudes they were able to elicit by asking theirrespondents
abouttheirnew Blackneighborsin a legalizedsquattersettlement. In the interviews,similarquestionswere asked,

Low

about"Mexicanlaborers"in SanAntonioor "recentimmigrants"in New York, to producedisclaimingstatements
and lead to a betterunderstandingof the social categories
usedby gatedcommunityresidents.
For instance,aftera long discussionidentifyingmiddleclass spaces in the city, Felicia tells a story about her
daughterfeeling threatenedby day laborers.She ends the
story with a disclaiming statement,explaining to her
daughterin the story (and indirectlyto me) that they are
"workmen,"the "backboneof ourcountry."Herdisclaimof social
ing statementhighlightsher acuteunderstanding
and
how
she
uses
to
those
categories
categories legitimate
herdiscursivegoals.
Anotherexample of disclaimingoccurs when the husbandand wife in New York begin talkingaboutthe deteriorationof theirurbanneighborhood.Barbaraoffers "it's
ethnic changes"to Alvin who is tryingto articulatewhat
happenedthatmadethem leave. He thenrepeatsher term,
"ethnicchanges,"to characterizethe moreelusivetransformationsthathe was tryingto get at.
In a recentpresentation,ColletteDaiute(2000) suggests
thattherearefive ways to interrogatea narrative:(1) as reportingan event, (2) as evaluatingthe event, (3) as constructingthe meaningof the event, (4) as a critiqueof the
event, and (5) as socially positioningthe speaker.I have
found her method helpful in identifyingotherwiseunarticulateddiscursivegoals of the interviewees.Forinstance,
Cynthiareportsthattherewere morethan48 robberiesin
her neighborhoodin Queens last year. She then evaluates
those robberiesby pointingout that they were of homes
with securityand dogs, but not with gates. She then uses
the logic of these two statementsto constructthe meaning
of her move to a gated community.Finally,she critiques
herown understanding:
"so I'm sayingto myself,all this in
and
I'm
mind,
my
saying.... I can get robbed,"andpositions herself with people inside the gatedcommunity(the
smart ones) ratherthan with those living outside (those
who arevulnerableto robberies).
Discussion
In New York, residentsare fleeing deterioratingurban
neighborhoodswith increasedethnic diversity and petty
crimes,concludingthatthe neighborhoodis "justnot what
it used to be."9 New Yorkerscite changes in the local
stores,problemswith parkingand securinga car, and frequentrobberiesof bicycles andcars.In San Antoniothere
is a similarpattern,but here the emphasisis on a fear of
kidnappingand illegal Mexican workers.Residentscite
newspaperstories of childrenbeing kidnapped,drive-by
shootings,neighborsbeing burglarized,andtalk aboutthe
largenumberof "break-ins."
The intensityof the languageandunderlyingsocial discourseseems more intensein San Antonio.As a younger,
sprawling,Southerncity it has much greaterhorizontal

/ THEEDGEANDTHE CENTER 55

spatialsegregationthan the older boroughsand Long Island suburbsof New YorkCity. As Felicia explains,residents of the northernoutskirtsof San Antonioare physically insulatedfromthe poorersectionsof the city. In New
YorkCity this kindof spatialandsocial insulationis much
harderto achieve. Nonetheless, in both cities, residents
move to gated communitiesbased on what Felicia calls
"fearflight,"the desireto protectoneself,family,andproperty from dangersperceivedas overwhelmingthem. Yet
gating offers a kind of incompleteboundedness"in that
workersfrom feared groups enter to work for residents,
andresidentsthemselvesneedto leave to shop."
Whetherit is kidnappingor bike snatching,Mexicanlaborersor "ethnicchanges,"the message is the same:residents are using the walls, entrygates, andguardsin an effort to keep the perceiveddangersoutsideof theirhomes,
neighborhoods,and social world. The physical distance
betweenthem and the "others"is so close thatcontactincites fearandconcern,and in responsethey are constructing exclusive, private, residential developments where
they can keep otherpeople out with guardsandgates.The
walls are makingvisible the systems of exclusionthatare
alreadythere,now constructedin concrete.
Conclusions
From these interviewsthere appearsto be a wealth of
data about fear of crime, increasedsocial diversity,and
neighborhoodchange.Residentstalkabouttheirfearof the
poor,the workers,the "Mexicans,"andthe "newcomers,"
as well as theirretreatbehindwalls wherethey thinkthey
will be safe. But thereis feareven behindthe walls.As the
two mothersfromSanAntoniopointout,thereareworkers
who enterthe communityeveryday,andthey mustgo out
in orderto buy groceries,shop, or see a movie. The gates
providesome protection,but they would still like more.I
wonderwhat"more"wouldbe? Even thoughthe gatesand
guardsexcludethe feared"others"from living with them,
"they"can slip by the gate, follow yourcar in, crawlover
the wall, or worse,the guardcan fall asleepor be a criminal
himself. Informalconversationsabout the screening of
guardsandhow they arehired,as well as discussionsabout
increasingthe height and lengthof the protectivewalls as
new threatsappear,are frequentin the lockerroomof the
healthclub, on the tennis court, and duringstrollsin the
communityin the evening.Whatwouldbe the next stepin
this progression?
In this paper,I have not consideredwhy developersare
buildinggatedcommunities,yet even withoutan analysis
of marketingstrategies,the allureof the gatedcommunity
is clear.Even residentswho did not select the community
for its gates now would only live behindprotectivewalls.
Further,duringthe day residentsareprimarilywomenwho
do not work.Is the gatedcommunitycreatingnew patterns
of genderingin these spaces?Whataboutthe men who go

56

* VOL. 103, No. 1 * MARCH2001
ANTHROPOLOGIST
AMERICAN

outsidethe communityby day to work?Are they the ones
who primarilyfind a refuge from diversitywhen coming
home? And gates and walls also have an impacton children and their relationshipto other people and environments. Will the childrenwho grow up in these new communitiesdepend on walls for their sense of securityand
safety? What does it mean that 17 teenage heroin overdoses occurred in the suburbangated communities of
Plano, Texas, in 1998 (Durrington1999)? Will the walls
and gates become standardfor any middle-classhome?
And with whatconsequencefor the future?
This papersuggeststhatthe discourseof urbanfear encodes othersocial concernsincludingclass, race, andethnic exclusivity as well as gender.'2It provides a verbal
componentthat complements,even reinforces,the visual
landscapeof fear createdby the walls, gates, and guards.
By matchingthe discourseof the inhabitantswiththe ideological thrustof the materialsetting,we enrichour understandingof the social constructionandsocialproductionof
places wherethe well-to-dolive (Low 2000; Tuan1979).13
Urbanfear, and its relationshipto new forms of social
ordering,needsto be betterunderstoodin the contextof the
entire metropolis.The spatial orderingof the edge respondsto the social dialecticof the center,playedout in an
ever changingsuburbanlandscape.

Notes
Acknowledgments.Funding from the Wenner-GrenFoundation for AnthropologicalResearch and from the Research
Foundationof the City Universityof New York made this research projectpossible. I would like to thankJoel Lefkowitz,
Laurel Wilson, Stephane Tonnelat, Kristin Koptiuch, Kevin
Birth, Carole Browner, Sally Merry, Ivelisse Rivera-Bonilla,
and Gary McDonogh for their contributionsto this project. I
also would like to thank my co-researchersElena Danaila,

datamust still be collected. I am currentlyanalyzingten interviews collected in a gatedcommunityin Mexico City.
4. Includesunincorporatedsuburbs.
5. When the crime rates are adjustedfor population,they
are43/1000 for Queens vs. 22/1000 for NassauCounty.
6. The disparity in prices reflects the considerabledifferences in the housing marketsratherthan any substantivedifferencesin socioeconomic statusand qualityof life of the residents or the natureof the homes.
7. The research team was made up of Elena Danaila, a
graduatestudent in EnvironmentalPsychology, and Suzanne
Scheld, a graduatestudentin Anthropology,andthe PI.

8. Oneinterviewcouldnotbe fullytranscribed
becauseof

problemswith the tape recording.The transcribedportionwas
used wheneverpossible, otherwisewe relied on the field notes
of the interview. All interviews were recordedand field notes
were takenas a precaution.
9. Ivelisse Rivera-Bonilla(1999) makes the distinctionbetween "neighborhood"and "community"because one doesn't
necessarily imply the other. She comments that in the gated
residents' narrativesabout their former neighborhoodsthey
talk aboutthe cornerstore, yet when they talk abouttheirpresent surroundingsthey seem to refer more to their immediate
families rather than their neighbors and community. This
could be because the gated communities are relatively new,
and to answerthis questionthey mustbe examinedover time.
10. I would like to thankone of the reviewersof this article
for suggesting thatthe boundednessis incomplete.
11. Kevin Birth suggests that looking at the ethnic backgroundsof the home healthcare workers,groundskeepers,and
nannies in the gated communitiesmight tell something more
abouthow often residentsencounternon-Whitesin theireveryday lives.
12. Kevin Birth also suggests that age may play a role in
structuringthese communities,especially the age of those who
are feared.
13. I would like to thankone of the reviewersof this article
for pointing out the strengthof the verbaland visual componentsreinforcingone anotherin this setting.

SuzanneScheld,andMarianaDiaz-Wionczek.
ElenaDanaila

and MarianaDiaz-Wionczek worked on the analysis of these
interviews, adding their understandingto my formulationof
the problem.Melissa Waitzman,Cindi Katz,and the members
of the Social Theory seminarcontributedinsightfulcomments
on the theoreticalideas presentedhere. I, however, am solely
responsible for the conclusions. An earlierversion of this paper was presentedas the Class of 1905 lecture at Bryn Mawr
College and at the AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation annualmeeting in Chicago.
1. Kristin Koptiuch contributedthis idea during a discussion of this paper at the AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation annualmeeting in Chicago. I greatlyappreciateher sharing her insight.

2. I wouldlike to thankIvelisseRivera-Bonilla
forlinking

Mike Davis's concept of militarizationto the racial/ethnicsegregationof Los Angeles.
3. These observationsare based on visits to each of these
cities and brief interviews with either experts or residents.
They providesome cross-culturalperspective,but the empirical

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