Constructing the Dynamo of Dixie

Race, Urban Planning, and Cosmopolitanism in Chattanooga, Tennessee

By Courtney Elizabeth Knapp

262 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 figs., 2 maps, 3 graphs, 2 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3727-3
    Published: May 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3728-0
    Published: March 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5280-9
    Published: March 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3726-6
    Published: May 2018

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Awards & distinctions

2019 Paul Davidoff Book Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

What can local histories of interracial conflict and collaboration teach us about the potential for urban equity and social justice in the future? Courtney Elizabeth Knapp chronicles the politics of gentrification and culture-based development in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by tracing the roots of racism, spatial segregation, and mainstream “cosmopolitanism” back to the earliest encounters between the Cherokee, African Americans, and white settlers. For more than three centuries, Chattanooga has been a site for multiracial interaction and community building; yet today public leaders have simultaneously restricted and appropriated many contributions of working-class communities of color within the city, exacerbating inequality and distrust between neighbors and public officials. Knapp suggests that “diasporic placemaking”—defined as the everyday practices through which uprooted people create new communities of security and belonging—is a useful analytical frame for understanding how multiracial interactions drive planning and urban development in diverse cities over time. By weaving together archival, ethnographic, and participatory action research techniques, she reveals the political complexities of a city characterized by centuries of ordinary resistance to racial segregation and uneven geographic development.

About the Author

Courtney Elizabeth Knapp is assistant professor of urban and regional planning at California State Polytechnic University.
For more information about Courtney Elizabeth Knapp, visit the Author Page.


Constructing the Dynamo of Dixie ends up being a well-researched and interesting book tackling a difficult topic with the utmost care.”--Tennessee Library Association

“By critically examining Chattanooga as one of the most widely accepted examples of Southern ‘exceptionalism,’ Knapp has revealed the complexities of revitalization within communities characterized by extreme inequities of wealth and power. This will be an important source in urban planning and development studies for years to come.” —Kenneth Reardon, University of Massachusetts Boston

“Knapp’s tightly wound narrative marries urban development to community building, affording the reader valuable cultural and historical insight into the 300-year growth of a modern city. Equally engrossing and moving.” —Andrew Wood, University of Kentucky