Doctor of Philosophy in History
First Committee Member
David M. Wrobel, Chair
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Graduate Faculty Representative
Number of Pages
This dissertation examines how historical events and representation of those events relative to the wider historical context have allowed the media, opinion setters, and the ordinary public to use the names of San Francisco, California, Birmingham, Alabama and Las Vegas, Nevada as denigrating adjectives and the effect of this usage on those cities. Exploration of Birmingham’s image as a racist city, San Francisco’s as a gay Mecca, and Las Vegas, Nevada’s as an adult playground or sinful city serves this purpose. These case studies support a central argument that the nature of place-based stigmatization’s influence depends upon ever-shifting cultural values and historical context.
Ultimately, this dissertation contends that ideas rival roads, master plans, and political organizations in importance with respect to their impact on urban areas. When considering the perceptions of Birmingham, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, one can see links between ideas and actions, mentalities and physical structures. In the case of Birmingham, local concerns over national perceptions of the place have resulted in a devastating level of anxiety as the city’s identity rapidly changed on the national scene from overwhelmingly positive to irredeemably deviant. In Las Vegas, the city’s reputation lacks the dramatic break found in Birmingham’s and has long played a direct role in its survival and prosperity. Yet while the city has prospered from being a place where one can do what is not acceptable elsewhere, “sin city” marketing has increasingly caused problems as the city has grown into a major metropolis complete with families and more mainstream aspirations. San Franciscans have tended to be more accepting of their mental placement as a Gay Mecca. Here, a long and continuous history of detachment from the American “norm” in popular portrayals, has created more of a laissez faire attitude. The idea of a gay-friendly city has directly impacted the city in recent years as its population has embraced the gay tourism industry and emerged as a pacesetter in regard to gay rights.
Alabama--Birmingham; California--San Francisco; Mass media and public opinion; Nevada--Las Vegas; Stigmatization
Immune System Diseases | Mass Communication | Social History | United States History | Virus Diseases
Foster, Jonathan Lavon, "Stigma Cities: Dystopian Urban Identities In The United States West And South In The Twentieth Century" (2009). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 1206.