Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Don Mitchell


Chicago, Edge city, Oak Brook, Perception, Publics, Right to the city

Subject Categories



This thesis explores Oak Brook, IL, an edge city (Garreau 1991) in the western suburbs of Chicago. A number of authors have advanced criticisms of edge cities (Beauregard 1995; Marcuse 1997), including that they are particularly exploitative and exclusionary. Some authors have claimed that edge cities are a "new frontier" (Garreau 1991), while others suggest that they are nothing new at all (Walker 1994). I address these concerns by way of an in-depth engagement with Oak Brook, Chicago's truest edge city. I ultimately argue that while edge cities have unique characteristics, they are part of a long heritage of capitalist urban geographies. Throughout the thesis, I use the case of Oak Brook to understand the exploitative and exclusionary dimensions of edge cities. I also examine how landscapes and perceptions of place impact life in edge cities, and how seemingly small changes in the landscape can have significant impacts to place images and to political economy. Seeing such changes and the struggles to realize them as part of a larger project to change urban life, I argue, is an important part of understanding edge cities within their metropolitan contexts.


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