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John Betancur, PhD, Professor

Dr. Betancur started his academic career in Latin America teaching and writing in the fields of philosophy first and urban sociology next. His writings on Nietzsche and Hegel were highly valued as was his research and publications on the informal economy and social reproduction among the urban poor. In 1981, he completed a major research project on the conditions, forms of reproduction and struggles of the poor in five low-income communities in Medellin, Colombia (conducted with Albalucía Serna and Patricia Londoño, two professors from a major local university). After immigrating to the USA and earning a PhD in Public Policy Analysis, he was part of the team that brought the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development to the forefront of engaged scholarship assisting nonprofits and governments in pioneer initiatives at the local level.

He continued this work as a faculty member of the Urban Planning and Policy Department at UIC, pioneering with other colleagues the study and development of black-Latino coalitions and publishing on urban restructuring, gentrification and the conditions of blacks and Latinos in US cities. Writing from an engaged and critical perspective, his research prioritizes the conditions of under-represented and vulnerable groups in cities in the USA and Latin America seeking (1) to build effective bridges across races, disciplines and countries, and (2) unveiling relationships that are critical for understanding and addressing the condition of minorities and the poor. His research addresses three major and closely related issues: (1) gentrification and impacts of urban restructuring on the poor and minorities, both in the USA and in Latin America, (2) race and class relations in urban environments, and (3) struggles of minority communities for development.

His gentrification research has been tied to his engagement with forces seeking to mitigate the impact of redevelopment of low-income areas on vulnerable groups; he has published about the process of gentrification, class and race politics of gentrification, and the impact of gentrification on minorities via social fabrics has completed various case studies of neighborhoods of gentrification in Chicago. This work has been quoted extensively, has been part of the discussion of policy and action on gentrification, and has placed the author in the middle of this academic debate and the search for policies and interventions that ameliorate the impact of gentrification on vulnerable populations.

Dr. Betancur’s research on race and class unveils the ways in which they reinforce each other and the contradictions and tensions they represent among minorities. Besides pioneering the field of black-Latino relations in various national encounters and a co-edited book (2000 with Dr. Douglas C. Gills) and following up with various other publications, he has engaged actively in black-Latino initiatives and dialogues seeking a better understanding of the relations of these groups as a basis for cooperation around their common condition and disadvantages. He is currently working with Dr. Cedric Herring on a second co-edited book on neoracism and its most recent impacts on blacks and Latinos. He has pursued this discussion most recently as an invited external member of SUS.DIV, a network of excellence of the European Commission composed of 35 European academic institutions dedicated to the study of diversity and the search for policies and strategies of convivencia. On these bases, he has added to his research the discussion of diversity that often pools distinct social groupings into a comprehensive framework while proposing diversity as an alternative to prior calls for homogenizing assimilation.

Over the years, Dr. Betancur has combined his scholarship with continued involvement in various community initiatives. He participated in the founding and development of two nonprofit service and advocacy Latino organizations and has engaged in many grassroots initiatives at local development. These experiences have been accompanied by studies documenting, evaluating or examining grassroots struggles. This involvement has led him to the study of topics as diverse as grassroots initiatives of the progressive Harold Washington administration in Chicago, the 2006-2007 immigration mobilizations against reform that would have criminalized millions of immigrants and their families, and an evaluation for the World Bank of a slum improvement initiative in Latin American cities. As part of this, he has also authored or co-authored many technical assistance reports and studies for community-based organizations and governments. He is currently conducting research for a book on neighborhood change with Dr. Janet Smith of UIC.

In the last decade, following research on urban restructuring in Latin America in 2001 and again in 2009, Dr. Betancur revisited his earlier work on social reproduction and the informal economy and extended his research to the analysis of Neoliberalism, gentrification, and other urban transformations on the region. He has started publishing this work and collaborating on other fronts with researchers and graduate students in and from the region. His work has captured the attention of Latin American urban researchers as it places ‘informality’ at the core of urban restructuring while pointing to differences in the paths of gentrification there and in the USA. As a result, Dr. Betancur has networked extensively with universities and researchers in the region participating in major international conferences in Colombia and Mexico, lecturing in forums such as the Central Bank of Venezuela, and being invited to deliver various international seminars.

Overall, his work has brought academia, policy and community together around multiple collaborations while advancing this scholarship on different continents and in a variety of environments. His research and publications are influenced by and influence his actual planning and community work. Along the way, Dr. Betancur has sought to build bridges and contribute to the improvement of the conditions of the groups and processes he studies and focuses his teaches on.

Universidad Pontifica Bolivariana, Medellin, Columbia (1971); Sociology Degree, Universidad San Buenaventura, Medellin, Colombia (1974); MUPP, University of Illinois at Chicago (1977); PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago (1986).

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Research Interests

Economic and community development particularly as it pertains to minorities.

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UPP403 Introduction to Urban Planning
UPP520 International Development Planning Theory and Applications
UPP540 Community Development: History and Theory
UPP545 Urban Revitalization and Gentrification

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John J. Betancur. Forthcoming 2011. “Gentrification and Community Fabric.” Urban Studies Vol 48 (February). 42 pages

Betancur, John J. 2009. “El Segundo Saqueo de America Latina: Implicaciones para la Planeacion Urbana.” Pp. 83-120 in La Ciudad Latinoamericana en el Siglo XXI: Globalizacion, Neoliberalismo, Planeacion edited by Peter Brand. Medellin, Universidad Nacional Press.

Phil Bowman and John J. Betancur. Fall 2010. “Sustainable Diversit and Inequality: Race in the USA and Beyond.” Pages 55-78 in The Sustainabuility of Cultural Diversity: Nations, Cities, Organizations edited by Maddy Janssens, Myrian Bechtoldt, Arie de Ruijter, Dino Pinelli, Giovanni Parolo, and Vanja M.K. Steinrn. Cheltenham, UK and North Hampton, USA: Fondazione Enrico Eni Matteis.

John Betancur and Tuzin Baycant. Diversity in Urban Planning in Steven Knotter, Rob De Lobel, Lena Tsipouri & Vanja Stenius (eds.) Diversity Research and Policy A Multidisciplinary Exploration, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011.

Donegan, M., J. Drucker, H.A. Goldstein, H. Lowe, and E. E. Malizia. 2008. Which indicators explain metropolitan economic performance best? Traditional or creative class. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74 (2): 180-195. Publisher's link.

John J. Betancur. 2008. “El Segundo Saqueo de América Latina: Implicaciones para la Planificación Urbana” (The Second Plunder of Latin America: Implications for Urban Planning). Pp. 83-119 in La Ciudad Latinoamericana en el Siglo XXI: Globalización y Neoliberalismo edited by Peter Brand. Medellín, Colombia: Universidad Nacional de Colombia Press.

John J. Betancur. 2007. “Urban Governance in Latin American Cities. Economic Downgrading and the Growth of Informalization: The Case of Medellin, Colombia. Pp. 125-137in Governing Cities in a Global Era edited by Robin Hambleton and Jill Gross. London: Palgrave, 14 pages.

John J. Betancur-. 2007. “Approaches to the Regularization of Informal Settlements: The Case of Primed in Medellin. Land and Urban Policies for Poverty Reduction: Proceedings of the Third International Urban Research Symposium held in Brasilia April 2005 Volume 1 edited by Mila Freire, Ricardo Lima, Dean Cira, Bruce Ferguson, Christine Kessides, Jose Araudo Mota and Diana Motta. Washington and Brasilia: The World Bank and the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA). Pp. 333-350

John J. Betancur and Douglas C. Gills. 2004. “Community Development in Chicago: From Washington to Daley. The Annals of the American Journal of Political and Social Sciences 594 (July): 92-108.

John J. Betancur. 2002. “The Politics of Gentrification: The Case of West Town in Chicago.” Urban Affairs Review 37, 6 (July): 780-814.

John J. Betancur, Isabel Domeyko and Patricia A. Wright. 2001. Gentrification in West Town: Contested Ground. Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement. 45 Pages

John J. Betancur and Douglas C. Gills, Eds. 2000. The Collaborative City: Opportunities and Struggles for Blacks and Latinos in U.S. Cities. New York and London: Garland.

John J. Betancur. 2000 & 2008. “The Settlement Experience of Latinos in Chicago: Segregation, Speculation, and the Ecology Model.” Structured Inequality in the United States of America edited by Adalberto Aguirre and David V. Baker. Prentice Hall. Originally published in Social Forces 74, 4 (June):1299-1324.

John J. Betancur and David C. Ranney. 1999. “Labor-Force-Based Development: A Community-Oriented Approach to Targeting Job Training and Industrial Development.” Economic Development Qarterly 6, 3, (August) 1992. Reprinted in pp. 85-95, Approaches to Economic Development: Readings from Economic Development Quarterly edited by J.P. Blair and L.A. Reese. Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: Sage Publications.

John J. Betancur. 1996. “The Settlement Experience of Latinos in Chicago: Segregation, Speculation, and the Ecology Model.” Social Forces 74, 4 (June): 1299-1324. Reprinted in 2000 and 2008 in Structured Inequality in the United States of America edited by Adalberto Aguirre and David V. Baker. Prentice Hall.

John J. Betancur. 1996. “The Settlement Experience of Latinos in Chicago: Segregation, Speculation, and the Ecology Model.” Social Forces 74, 4 (June): 1299-1324. Reprinted in 2000 and 2008 in Structured Inequality in the United States of America edited by Adalberto Aguirre and David V. Baker. Prentice Hall.

John J. Betancur and D.C. Gills.1993. “Race and Class in Local Economic Development.” Pp. 191-212 in Theories of Local Economic Development. Perspectives from Across the Disciplines edited by Richard D. Bingham and Robert Mier. Newbury Park, London and New Delhi.

David C. Ranney and John J. Betancur. 1992. “Labor Force-Based Development: An Approach to Urban Employment Problems.” Economic Development Quarterly. 6, 3 (August): 286-296. Reprinted in Approaches to Economic Development,

Readings from Economic Development Quarterly edited by John P. Blair and Laura A. Reese. Thousand Oaks, London and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1999.

Robert Giloth and John J. Betancur. 1988. “Where Downtown Meets Neighborhood—Industrial Displacement in Chicago: 1978-1987.” Journal of the American Planning Association 54, 3 (Summer): 279-290.

John J. Betancur, Patricia Londoño and Alba lucía Serna. 1981. Composición Social y Movilización Política en Barrios Populares de Medellín. Centro de Investigaciones de las Ciencias Sociales, Departamento de Sociología, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.

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Room 223 (MC 348)

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