There Goes the Neighborhood

Gentrification and Urban Redevelopment in Roman North Africa

J. Andrew Dufton

ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor

City life in North Africa during the Roman period is often portrayed as a monolithic image of gleaming marble temples and elites, of unrivalled urban wealth and unquestionable success. Yet amongst these developments the neighborhoods of North Africa also saw periods of disuse, small- and large-scale regeneration projects, and a broad shift from mixed-use to specialized districts. This talk examines these changes using the modern concept of gentrification. By tracing examples of the displacement of urban production and the consolidation of property into larger and more elite residences, we can better understand both the nature of Roman urban renewal and the impact of these changes on local populations.

J. Andrew Dufton is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. He received his PhD in Archaeology from Brown University, his MSc from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, and his BA from McGill University’s Department of Anthropology. Dufton’s research interrogates the long-term dynamics of urban change in North Africa, from the Iron Age into late antiquity. His current project, an adaptation of his doctoral dissertation, examines the physical developments in North African cities in the three centuries following the Roman conquest. Drawing inspiration from contemporary and comparative scholarship on urban change, this work is split into a number of fundamental processes: foundation, growth, monumentalization, renewal, and decay. The result brings to the fore the implications of these changes for local populations and highlights the diversity, haphazardness, and improvisation that best characterize urban life in both ancient and modern contexts.

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