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  An outer district lying within the commuting zone of an urban area, often as a separate political jurisdiction (see commuting). The concept has debatable utility because it is used to describe a wide range of communities and landscape forms. Silverstone (1997, p. 4) nevertheless claims that each suburb is the \'embodiment of the same ideal\': \'the attempt to marry town and country, and to create for middle classes middle cultures in middle spaces in middle America or Britain or Australia\'.

Some suburban differences reflect varying stages of suburban development. In many industrialized countries construction of suburban elite residential environments, distanced from the crowding and pollution of industrial cities, began in the early nineteenth century. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, suburbanization became a mass phenomenon, as middle- and skilled working-class families moved into residential communities located some distance from paid employment. After the Second World War, this trend was magnified in many countries by freeway construction and governmental restructuring of mortgage financing, which put a single-family house on a small plot of land within the reach of a larger number of households. Post-war suburbanization was buttressed by public policy and media images to resocialize women into the home.

In a number of countries, including Australia, Canada and the United States, the postwar suburb is conceived as a residential, privatized, automobile-oriented, consumerist landscape, which houses a homogeneous grouping of white, middle-class nuclear families. In feminist geography both the representation and reality of this suburban form have been explored and contested: it has been argued that what is represented as a place of consumption is also a site of production and reproduction, and that the actual landscape form restricts women\'s access to services and paid employment (England, 1991). Women living in post-war suburbs nevertheless negotiate long commutes to paid employment and the care of their children through carefully-tended informal networks of other mothers (Dyck, 1996).

In Marxist geography the construction of the post-war suburban environment has been viewed as a means of staving off an accumulation crisis and as a mechanism of ideological incorporation (Walker, 1981). In humanistic geography suburban landscapes have been criticized as placeless environments, devoid of authentic meaning and opportunities to invest identity in place (Relph, 1981). Contemporary cultural critics are more likely, however, to view suburbs as creative spaces of popular culture. In Silverstone\'s (1997, p. 6) words: \'Levittown has now become a passable model of postmodern individuality, as standardized houses have been transformed, trees and gardens planted, and the basic structure of the grid and lot have been overlaid by other designs and other models of suburban architecture.\' The racialization of US suburbs remains a continuing concern within social geography, although there is some evidence that middle-class African-American households are more prevalent in suburbs in the American north-east and south-east and Asian households more numerous in western US suburbs than in the 1960s (Frey, 1993). Winddance Twine (1996) underlines the continuing effects on race identification of the middle-class ideology of liberal consumerist individualism that she detects in affluent white suburbs; she found that it was only after leaving their suburban family homes that young women of African descent reinterpreted themselves, from white to black.

It has become clear, however, that there is a considerable variability even within the postwar suburban model. In other national contexts, public, non-profit, as well as private, multi-family housing has been constructed in suburban contexts that are, in some cases, well served by public transit (see Popenoe, 1977, for a comparison of American and Swedish suburban environments: see also housing studies). Strong-Boag (1991) doubts that Canadian post-war suburbs were ever as socially homogeneous (in terms of class and ethnicity) as those portrayed in accounts of US suburbs.

Certainly the post-war suburban model provides a poor description of many contemporary suburbs, including those in the US, given the suburbanization of a variety of types of employment, the growing diversity of housing forms and the variety of age groups, household types, classes, and racial and ethnic groups living in them. In Beauregard\'s words: \'The urban is constantly seeping into the nonurban\' (1995, p. 716). Edge cities and gated communities, and neo-traditional towns, are forms that have received considerable attention. edge cities have been defined by Garreau (1991) by their distinctive clustering of office and retail space and their large numbers of high-waged, white-collar jobs; they are, then, much more than residential and consumption spaces; their residential landscapes tend to be represented as common-interest developments (CIDs: see private interest developments), such as gated communities (Beauregard, 1995).

Neotraditional towns are defined against this and an earlier suburban model. The \'picture window\' of the post-war suburban home has been used to symbolize the decline of both the private and public spheres (Silverstone, 1997). Conceived as an antidote to this house form and a sprawling, automobile-oriented, privatized suburban landscape, architects of neo-traditional towns (the Miami-based architectural team of Duany and Plater-Zyberk are typically credited with the neo-traditional planning movement) proclaim \'the second coming of the American small town\' (quoted in McCann, 1995, p. 213). Drawing upon the early ideas of the urban planner Jane Jacobs (among others), they attempt to reinvigorate community and public life in suburban areas through developments designed with narrow walking paths, short grid-patterned streets, small yards with shallow front yards and short picket fences, and houses with open front porches; all aimed to increase pedestrian traffic and sociability. Social diversity is encouraged through a mix of housing types and tenures. Critics are sceptical about whether this social utopianism amounts to more than a marketing tool and explore how exclusivity and claims to the virtues of neo-traditional suburbs are now drawn, not only against negative images of the city (Till, 1993), but against the traditional suburb, which now may be seen as too socially diverse (Dowling, 1998). (GP)

References Beauregard, R. 1995: Edge cities: peripheralizing the center. Urban Geography 16: 708-21. Dowling, R. 1998: Neotraditionalism in the suburban landscape: cultural geographies of exclusion in Vancouver, Canada. Urban Geography 19: 105-22. Dyck, I. 1996: Mother or worker? Women\'s support networks, local knowledge and informal child care strategies. In K. England, ed., Who will mind the baby? London: Routledge, 123-40. England, K.V.L. 1991: Gender relations and the spatial structure of the city. Geoforum 22 2: 135-47. Frey, W.H. 1993: The new urban revival in the United States. Urban Studies 30: 741-74. Garreau, J. 1991: Edge city: Life on the new frontier. New York: Doubleday; McCann, E. 1995: Neotraditional developments: the anatomy of a new urban form. Urban Geography 16: 210-33. Popenoe, D. 1977: The suburban environment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Relph, E. 1981: Rational landscapes and humanist geography. London: Croom Helm. Silverstone, R. 1997: Visions of suburbia. London: Routledge. Strong-Boag, V. 1991: Home dreams: women and the suburban experiment in Canada, 1945-60. Canadian Historical Review 72 4: 471-504. Till, K. 1993: Neotraditional towns and urban villages: the cultural production of a geography of otherness. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 11: 709-32. Walker, R.A. 1981: A theory of suburbanization: capitalism and the construction of urban space in the United States. In M. Dear and A.J. Scott, eds, Urbanization and urban planning in capitalist society. London: Methuen, 383-429. Winddance Twine, F. 1996: Brown skinned white girls: class, culture and the construction of white identity in suburban communities. Gender, Place and Culture 3: 205-24.



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