McGill University

Jonathan Rouleau is a doctoral student in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He holds a BA and an MA in anthropology of music. His Ph.D. thesis focuses on the role of universities in the development of culture in Montreal. He has previously written on the role mediators occupy in defining the socio-musical network of the indie music scene in Brooklyn, New York. He works as a contributor for the cultural magazine Scène 1425.

Gentrification, the “L” Train, and the Brooklyn Music Scene: An Ethnography of Movement

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this presentation examines the gentrification of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in relation to the presence of artists, especially musicians, in the neighbourhood. Williamsburg has gone through major transformations in the last decade and the ‘buzz’ over its music scene is certainly an important vector of change. As a result, many musicians have decided to settle in neighbourhoods east of Williamsburg, in areas such as East Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. What is particularly striking is that the movement of musicians seems to lead them to establish themselves near the “L” train stations. The “L” train is related to the history of music scenes in New York: the American Folk Revival in Greenwich Village and punk and new-wave in the East Village were both located near some of the “L” train stations. Keeping the history of New York Music scenes in mind, and faithful to the idea of the “L” train as a mediator of movement, Jonathan Rouleau’s paper seeks to understand the will of musicians to settle in ‘authentic neighbourhoods’ while still being able to circulate to (and from) places where the live music venues and bars are mostly located. The role of public transit in enabling and organizing this mobility and in stabilizing certain patterns of gentrification will be a key focus of this paper.