The Laurelhurst Phenomena: Fault Lines in a Utopic Space
Mentor:Glenn Griffin, Professor, Occidental College
This paper is a Foucauldian discursive analysis of juvenile crime in Laurelhurst, an affluent residential neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. Laurelhurst is among the “Whitest” neighborhoods in the city and is known for beautiful homes, great views and a “family-friendly” environment. The Laurelhurst Community Club encapsulates its appeal: “Laurelhurst is part of the ‘inner city’ while at the same time being insulated from some of its impact.” Yet, this seemingly utopic neighborhood is also plagued by juvenile crime, the reality of which is not integrated into the community’s self understanding. The public Laurelhurst Park in the heart of the community is the site of many unauthorized late night bonfires that witness teenage drinking, littering, illegal drug use, graffiti and car burglary. Initially, this repeated event has the illusion of being incongruent with the community as a whole. However, through a detailed deconstructive analysis of both physical and virtual space it becomes apparent that the discursive language and spatial terms for deviance are embedded within Laurelhurst. The physical cartography of the community and the spatial relationship between the hospital, church, schools, park and the virtual spaces of online forums such as blogs begin to reveal Laurelhurst’s fissures through which its dystopic elements become discernible. As a result of this detailed spatial analysis the subjugated knowledge of the community’s imperfection begins to emerge.