Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This qualitative study focuses on a planning process in Baton Rouge, Louisiana called Plan Baton Rouge, which began in the summer of 1998 and continues through the present. The overriding goal of the Plan Baton Rouge process is to revitalize downtown Baton Rouge and promote economic and cultural vitality while implementing the design practices of New Urbanism. New Urbanism is a design methodology that condemns suburban sprawl while promoting denser, early-twentieth-century-style townscapes and urban centers, focusing on mixed land use, pedestrianism, and aesthetic and architectural continuity. Through participant observation, this ethnographic account of New Urbanism in practice provides an in-depth case-study of how New Urbanism, a far-reaching international planning paradigm, works in a specially local context. Throughout the Plan Baton Rouge process, public participation was solicited through a charrette town-planning format. I argue that Baton Rouge is promoted in a particular way, creating a seemingly interactive dialogue between charismatic leader, local planners, politicians, and participants. Specifically, a powerful learning discourse is strategically implemented in the planning document as well as the public meetings to create an experience perceived as innovative and inherently progressive. But New Urbanism isn’t always about looking forward. As New Urbanists draw directly from design elements of the past, they also depend upon solicited public local memories during the planning process to strengthen their use of neotraditional design. Through the use of memories and photographs, “the way things use to be” becomes a powerful and evocative selling tool in engaging both local planners and community participants. However, while it is certainly a powerful promotion tool, this nostalgic sentiment may not be a positive and productive force in the revitalization process as it depends upon highly selective, romanticized notions that may obfuscate the more complicated issues of creating a diverse and vibrant urban community.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dydia DeLyser