“The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City”

Modern America Workshop 

Monday, April 26

4:30 p.m. (EDT) | With Destin Jenkins, University of Chicago, and Alison Isenberg, Princeton University

In conversation about “The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City”

This meeting will be held via Zoom. Registration is required to attend. To register for the workshop, visit:


Destin Jenkins is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He specializes in racial capitalism’s history and consequences for democracy and inequality in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University (2010), and doctorate from Stanford University (2016). He has held fellowships at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School.

His first book, The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the Modern American City (The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming), explores the paradox of municipal debt. At one level, debt remade distressed streets and crumbling sewage systems in ways that improved the overall quality of life in the postwar city. At another level, debt furthered what he calls the “infrastructural investment in whiteness,” an illicit white racial advantaged earned through the particular ‘work’ that whiteness performed at mid-century. In both cases, borrowing redistributed wealth upwards in ways that widened the wealth gap. The Bonds of Inequality uses San Francisco to open up larger, national questions about the history of capitalism, the built environment, and who rules in and over the city.

Alison Isenberg is a professor of history at Princeton and writes and teaches about nineteenth and twentieth century American society. She is currently completing a book about the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..'s assassination. Isenberg's first book Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It (link is external)(University of Chicago Press, 2004) received several awards: the Ellis Hawley prize from the Organization of American Historians; Historic Preservation Book Prize from Mary Washington University; Lewis Mumford Prize from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History; and an Honor Book award from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.  Her second book, Designing San Francisco: Art, Land and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay(link is external) (Princeton University Press, 2017), received the 2018 PROSE Award for Architecture & Urban Planning from the Association of American Publishers, and a John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies.

At Princeton, Isenberg is the founding co-director of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities and Faculty Associate at Princeton School of Public & International Affairs. She directed the Urban Studies Program 2012-2014 and serves on its Executive Committee.  She is Affiliated Faculty in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and on the American Studies Executive Committee.