Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jon D. Shefner

Committee Members

Harry F. Dahms, Robert J. Durán


The purpose of this project is to examine the adverse effects of neoliberal economic development in Nashville, Tennessee. For several years, the city has been widely praised for its rapidly growing economy, especially in industries such as healthcare and entertainment. There is, however, a contradiction built into this growth that is often left out of discussion. National trends related to deindustrialization, offshoring, and automation have left sectors of the population without work, oftentimes forcing them into the informal or underground economy. Tennessee especially fits into the neoliberal paradigm as the state promotes its emphasis on deregulation in its growing medical and manufacturing industries all while having a regressive tax system in place. In addition, wide-scale gentrification in Nashville and cuts to governmental social expenditures have left this population even more vulnerable, fracturing communities and leaving people economically discarded. This project draws on eight months of fieldwork, primarily in East and Northeast Nashville. It provides a framework for explaining the role of the urban poor in a postindustrial economy defined by urban displacement and destitution as a byproduct of neoliberal policies that aim to manage and punish the poor (Piven and Cloward, 1993; Wacquant, 2009). In addition, it works to make sense of how the urban poor situate themselves in a changing social reality defined by displacement and state repression, perpetual surveillance via the dismantling of the welfare state, their declining relevance to the productive economy, and finally the fracturing of physical market spaces and exchange relations by means of the decentralization in the informal economy.

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