I am publishing the first chapter from my unpublished book New Bohemias: Artists, Hipsters and Gentrification in six parts – one a day from today onwards. I published the book introduction earlier today. A longer section of this chapter “Old Bohemias” will be published tomorrow…
CHANGING PLACES – FROM OLD BOHEMIAS TO NEW BOHEMIAS
If there’s one word that long been associated with gentrification, it is Bohemia. This once mythical place where counter-cultural movements loafed into existence has morphed and multiplied into a tag slapped on anywhere awaiting gentrification, anywhere “arty”, anywhere where students live, anywhere cool, trendy.
But were the “Old Bohemias” really that different to those of today: the “New Bohemias”? Perhaps not. Bohemias have always been linked to both poverty and gentrification. Bohemias have always been the haunt of artists, artisans and the fashionable. Bohemias have always been associated with capitalism. Yet there has been a distinct shift from the Old Bohemias to the New Bohemias. This shift is undoubtedly linked to the intensification of capitalism: to property speculation, property development, urban planning, city branding, placemaking, entrepreneurialism, fashion, taste, style, creativity, the Creative City and the Creative Class.
“Accumulation by dispossession” doesn’t care about existing communities, families and people – particularly those from the lower-classes or in poverty. Capitalism at its most primitive is about theft of value, of meaning, of everything exploitable. However, whereas many Old Bohemians were blissfully unaware of their role as pre-gentrifiers, today’s New Bohemians willingly embrace their role as the meanwhile inhabitants of these temporal outposts. The path from Old Bohemias to New Bohemias reveals how gentrification became a global phenomenon and how artists, writers, other creative types, students and hipsters became essential cogs in the well-greased wheels of global capitalism.