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Andrew Needham: "Power Plants, Landfills, and Vacation Homes: Hinterland Social Inequality and the Modern Metropolis"

For the past fifteen years, American “urban crisis” scholars have shaped an imagination of social inequality with the hollowed-out metropolis at its center. The work of William Julius Wilson, Thomas Sugrue, and others has produced assumptions that the sole narrative of recent social inequality involves the movement of jobs and wealth to suburban areas while central cities become increasingly both impoverished and non-white. Such narratives are vital for understanding the development of urban America in the postwar years; however, they have also obscured far-flung inequalities that metropolitan change has produced in hinterland areas.

By examining three separate geographical connections between metropolis and hinterland, this paper will argue that post-Fordist metropolitan social inequality must be understood as occurring beyond as well as within the metropolitan landscape. With capital’s increasing mobility, geographical inequalities have become more intense. Examining electrical energy development on the Navajo Nation (for consumers in Phoenix and Los Angeles), new landfills in Pennsylvania developed following New York City’s closure of Fresh Kills landfill, and the economy of tourism in the Rocky Mountains, this paper will argue that broadening inquiry into social inequality to include metropolitan hinterlands allows new connections between environmental and class-based critiques of metropolitan change.

About the Author

Teaching and Postdoctoral Positions

Fall 2007 to Present
New York University, Assistant Professor of History

Clements Center for Southwest Studies, William and Rita Clements Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

Bard College, Visiting Assistant Professor of History and American Studies,
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ph.D., History, 2006
Dissertation: “Power Lines: Energy Development, Urban Space, and the Making of the Modern Southwest, 1945-1975”

San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
Master of Arts, History, 1997

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
Bachelor of Arts, History, 1993

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