Loving Diversity/Controlling Diversity: Exploring the Ambivalent Mobilization of Upper‐Middle‐Class Gentrifiers, South End, Boston


This article centers on a group of upper‐middle‐class gentrifiers living in a neighborhood in the South End of Boston, and their complex attitude towards diversity. I use data from my fieldwork in the South End, based on ethnographic observation and 77 interviews with residents active in local organizations, such as neighborhood associations. These residents explicitly stress their endorsement of diversity, in terms of class, race, but also sexual orientation, and their commitment to maintaining it. I examine the meaning they give to this principle, the actions they take in its name and the kind of relations they establish with those ‘others’ who embody such diversity. I argue that the gentrifiers’ love of diversity, which cannot be reduced to sheer hypocrisy, is intrinsically linked to their capacity to control it, thus shedding light on the changing definition of social distinction in upper‐middle‐class culture.