Where Philly stands

July 13, 2010

Temple’s Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project (MPIP) has released its 2010 annual report:  Where We Stand.  The report assesses various dimensions of community life, selecting a few critical indicators to tell us where Philadelphia stands both as a region and within individual local communities.

Funded by the William Penn Foundation, MPIP promotes regional thinking about metropolitan Philadelphia’s most important challenges by illuminating conditions and trends in the nine-county region (defined as the central cities of Philadelphia and Camden along with the Pennsylvania counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery, and the New Jersey counties of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem).

Because one of the goals of MPIP is to inform policy conversations about improving quality of life in the region, this year’s report begins with a section that maps changes in three recession-related indicators–Job Loss, Food Stamps and Foreclosures–using legislative boundaries to portray patterns across the region.

Additionally, most sections of the report also show how greater Philadelphia ranks in comparison with eight other metropolitan areas.

For more information, please visit MPIP’s website (www.temple.edu/mpip) to make free use of MetroPhilaMapper, a web resource that allows users to easily find data about all communities in the region, to view the information displayed in charts, tables and maps, and to compare data that used to be scattered across multiple sources.

–Kim Fischer

Temple historian Bryant Simon’s thoughts on Starbucks, globalization and the rise of the ‘local’ appear this week in Yale Global Online: A Publication of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

In the piece, “Global Brands Contend With Appreciation for the Local,” Simon contends that while global brands are a powerful phenomenon, just as powerful is the consumer push back against the global brands in the form of rebellion against sameness.

According to Simon, the rapid spread of global brands around the world raises the value of the unique and the locally-made product.  He concludes that the local and global may be inextricably intertwined.

Bryant Simon is the director of the American Studies program at Temple University and the author of Everything but the Coffee: Learning About America From Starbucks.

To listen to Simon discuss Starbucks and his recent book:

–Kim Fischer

Of the 2.3 million inmates in the U.S., more than half have a history of substance abuse and addiction. Treating drug addicts in prison works better and costs less than imprisonment alone. So why are states abandoning it?

One obstacle is the perception that addicts get what they deserve and the only way to treat addiction is abstinence. Another obstacle: Politicians don’t want to be seen as being seen as soft on crime. And even if they support the idea, with state budgets under a crunch, treatment can start to look expendable.

Steven Belenko, a professor of criminal justice at Temple, says people who work in prisons don’t necessarily think that way: “Correctional professionals recognize the importance of these types of services,” Belenko said.

To read more about this topic and what Belenko has to say, check out Newsweek’s The Case for Treating Drug Addicts in Prison

–Kim Fischer

Traditional Japanese wood carvings (shown above) by Yasujiro Yamakawa (1865-1941) were recently discovered in a collection acquired by Temple’s Anthropology Laboratory in 2004 from the former Philadelphia Commercial Museum.

Existing creations of Yamakawa are rare today, but highly admired by connoisseurs of Japanese dolls and crafts for their unique quality. These particular pieces are now in Tokyo being restored and displayed in celebration of Yamakawa’s work.

The Commercial Museum held items exhibited worldwide in various world’s fairs, including the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. It’s buildings, later part of the old Philadelphia Civic Center and since torn down, were first built for the National Export Exhibition of 1899.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Commercial Museum was among the biggest museums of any kind in the nation.  It functioned both as a popular destination for locals and tourists, and as a valuable resource for American businessmen wanting to learn more about foreign trade and economics in order to expand to overseas markets.

As the great age of the world’s fairs came to a close in the 1920s, the original mission of the museum became less and less relevant.

When the city of Philadelphia recently dispersed the remainder of the museum’s artifacts, various groups and universities were invited to add items to their own collections. The Yamakura dolls are among a number of unique pieces acquired by Temple’s Anthropology lab.

–Kim Fischer

By Stephan Salisbury

Inquirer Culture Writer

Near the terminus of a dead-end road, on a bulblike hill in the midst of a grassy meadow, a group of Temple University archaeology students and volunteers is excavating what may be one of the most important African American historical sites in New Jersey.

It’s called Timbuctoo – a once-thriving enclave probably founded by free African Americans and escaped slaves in the 1820s, now abandoned, if not forgotten, for more than half a century.

An entire village lies beneath the grassy hill near Rancocas Creek in Westampton Township outside Mount Holly – at least 18 houses, remains of a church, two roadways, an alley, a number of privies and wells, possibly schools, and large parts of a cemetery, where 13 graves of African American troops from the Civil War are marked by headstones – but where six times as many may lie in unmarked graves.

Read more here.

At a time when American universities across the country increasingly market their racial diversity to prospective students, Temple sociologist Sherri Grasmuck set out to explore what “diversity” means. She interviewed 64 college students, who identified themselves as members of a minority group, to find out who benefits most from diversity on college campuses and what do the students themselves have to say about it.

According to Grasmuck, the answers may surprise you.

“What I found was a complicated mixture of students who drink of the diversity offered on a college campus and students who stay within their ethnic or racial group,” said Grasmuck. “But of those who do stay within their group, the reasons why are interesting and not at all obvious.”

Her interviews revealed that a surprising number of students who socialized primarily within their own cultural group identified this as a new tendency that allowed them to affirm their cultural identity.

“I found this to be predominant pattern among middle class minority and immigrant students who suddenly discovered a peer group like themselves for the first time in their lives,” said Grasmuck.

“For these students, socializing within what they considered to be their own culture was a new pattern with positive pay offs. Homogenous social mixing provided for these students a deep affirmation of self that also proved academically empowering.”

Overall, Grasmuck found that the students most satisfied with their experiences on a multicultural campus were the ones who had made their own choices about peer associations, and those least happy had felt constrained by peer group boundaries and pressures.

For more, read What does “diversity” really mean?

–Kim Fischer

Sketches like this one can be found on PhilaPlace,an interactive Web site, created by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, that connects stories to places across time in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

Associate Professor Christopher Harper, JOUR, was awarded a $50,000 provost seed grant to assist the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to expand its award-winning website, www.philaplace.org. The grant will enable Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the capstone course for journalism majors, and photojournalists in the Department of Journalism to work with the historical society to provide historical accounts of neighborhoods in the city. The College of Education and the Neighborhood Learning Center also will participate in the interdisciplinary project.