Building a Better Houston: Highways, Neighborhoods, and Infrastructural Citizenship in the 1970s

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This article examines how residents from two disparate, central Houston, Texas, neighborhoods-the white and wealthy Courtlandt Place and the predominately black, mostly lower-class Third Ward-responded to disruptive physical changes caused by highway building in the 1960s and 1970s. To resist highway construction and its aftereffects, residents from both communities embraced a rhetoric and set of actions that turned their homes and streets into political tools. By transforming elements of the built environment from inert materials into arenas in which they could claim and assert political power, the Houstonians examined here crafted a shared set of actions this article frames as expressions of "infrastructural citizenship." While imbalances in racial and economic power shaped the outcomes of these two fights, the common language and action residents found in infrastructural citizenship allowed them to protect their visions of the city and to participate in the planning of its future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-444
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.


  • citizen participation
  • highways
  • infrastructure
  • metropolitan politics
  • urban renewal


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