The Development of Political Imagination in Public Housing

Posted: 9 Oct 2011

Date Written: October 8, 2011


Although welfare recipients undergo political learning from welfare bureaucracies, I disagree that this is where political development begins and ends. In this paper I argue that Chicago public housing policy has created a public sphere where low-income people develop political imagination through public-spirited conversation. Drawing from six months of ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, I find that, despite at times being denied access to the larger public sphere, public housing residents have found ways to effect change within their own smaller public spheres. While public housing resident political advocacy often goes on under the radar of the larger public eye, it is still very much happening in ways that are effective and significant. My argument takes Joe Soss’ work, as well as the work of others within the policy feedback literature, as a point of departure, and interrogates the way in which low-income people act politically in creative and poignant ways.

Suggested Citation

Moffett-Bateau, Alexandra, The Development of Political Imagination in Public Housing (October 8, 2011). NCOBPS 43rd Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau (Contact Author)

CUNY, John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
United States

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