Urban neighborhoods have undergone property disinvestment, a decreasing population, and a general economic decline. Atlanta, the fourth-fastest gentrifying city in the United States exemplifies this trend. The purpose of this grounded theory study is to understand how discourse about gentrification helps a community address its goal of regeneration. We used Habermas’ critical hermeneutic lens to investigate the perceptions of 20 resident leaders and stakeholders in a community that was undergoing the process of gentrification. Our findings illustrate that this community is fraught with systematically distorted communication that used communicative action for emancipation. The four theoretical codes: gentrification (a collision between politics and economics), systematically distorted communication, regeneration, and strategies (communicative action as emancipatory), were used to represent how power and language intersected within economic and political discourse. Through an identification of elements of communicative action for neighborhoods that are undergoing gentrification, this study provides guidance for development of stakeholder community action plans.


Gentrification, Urban Redevelopment, Regeneration, Grounded Theory, Habermas, Communicative Action

Author Bio(s)

Carol Isaac (Ph.D., University of Florida, 2006). Dr. Carol Isaac is an associate professor of research in the Department of Educational Leadership. Prior to joining Mercer University in 2013, she studied at the Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Wisconsin as a research associate and post-doctoral trainee. Her previous research interests focused on leadership and gender, qualitative research methodology, mixed method designs and conceptualizing quantitative results using qualitative methods and examining the role implicit bias plays in the career advancement of women in academic STEMM. She is currently involved in a research project of an urban neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. Please direct correspondence to isaac_ca@mercer.edu.

Arla Bernstein (Ph.D., University of Florida, 1998). Dr. Bernstein has taught college students for 20 years and her professional experience combines a strong background in professional communication, public policy, and community planning with her experiences as a former Director of Community Development in the state of Florida. Please direct correspondence to bernstein_ag@mercer.edu.

Linda S. Behar-Horenstein, PhD is a Professor Emerita from the University of Florida. She is currently an evaluator on federally funded cancer health disparity grants. Her research initiatives encompass faculty development, cultural competency, and the assessment of behavioral, cognitive, and attitudinal change. Please direct correspondence to: lsbhoren@ufl.edu.


We would like to acknowledge the Partnership for Southern Equity for their support of this study.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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