Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN 2214-9953
  • E-ISSN: 2214-9961
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This paper brings together urban planning and linguistic perspectives to examine the semiotic landscape of a Washington, DC ‘streatery’ in the context of the intersecting public health- and place-based economic crises unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing from Garay-Huamán and Irazábal-Zurita’s (2021) work on neoliberal (SSA), we examine how different layers of Adams Morgan’s emergent Covid landscape are rooted in the dynamics of capitalist accumulation through urban placemaking strategies. We focus on signs put up by the Business Improvement District (BID) that explain the public health regulations applicable to the area through discourse that playfully encourages people to social distance and wear masks. These signs utilize three linguistic or semiotic discourses: hygiene, humor and play, and anti-Trump politics. The signs serve as a bona fide effort to both halt the spread of the coronavirus and take a political stance. At the same time as the signs promote public health, their commodified aestheticization of hygiene and politics also serves commercial interests.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Ameel, L.
    (2021) The Narrative Turn in Urban Planning: Plotting the Helsinki Waterfront. Abington, Oxford: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Baro, G.
    (2017) The Language of urban development in Johannesburg’s inner city. Multilingual Margins: A Journal of Multilingualism from the Periphery, 4(1), 40–52.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Bloom, N. D.
    (2004) Merchant of illusion: James Rouse, American’s salesman of the businessman’s utopia. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Brown, P. & Levinson, S. C.
    (1987) Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511813085
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085 [Google Scholar]
  5. Briffault, R.
    (1999) A Government for our time? Business Improvement Districts and urban governance. Columbia Law Review, 991: 365–477. 10.2307/1123583
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1123583 [Google Scholar]
  6. Buchstaller, I.
    (2021) Community cityscape: Modes of engagement and co-construction of the streetscape. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(5), 20200150. 10.1515/lingvan‑2020‑0150
    https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2020-0150 [Google Scholar]
  7. Collins, C.
    (2000) Developing the linguistic turn in urban studies: Language, context and political economy. Urban Studies, 37(11), 2027–43. 10.1080/713707225
    https://doi.org/10.1080/713707225 [Google Scholar]
  8. DC Office of Planning, and Washington DC Economic Partnership WDCEP
    DC Office of Planning, and Washington DC Economic Partnership WDCEP (2010) Creative Capital: The Creative DC Action Agenda. District of Columbia.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Didier, S., Morange, M. & Peyroux, E.
    (2013) The adaptive nature of neoliberalism at the local scale: Fifteen years of city improvement districts in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Antipode, 45(1), 121–39. 10.1111/j.1467‑8330.2012.00987.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.00987.x [Google Scholar]
  10. Empower DC
    Empower DC (2021) Gentrification as public policy: BIDs, development, and displacement in Washington D.C. Roundtable, October, 21. https://www.empowerdc.org/gentrification_as_public_policy
  11. Florida, R.
    (2002) The rise of the creative class: And how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Furman, A.
    (2007) The street as a temporary eventscape. International Journal of the Humanities5(9), 77–84. 10.18848/1447‑9508/CGP/v05i09/42237
    https://doi.org/10.18848/1447-9508/CGP/v05i09/42237 [Google Scholar]
  13. Garay-Huamán, A. N., & Irazábal-Zurita, C.
    (2021) Latinos in Kansas City: The political economy of placemaking. Journal of Planning Literature36(2), 131–54. 10.1177/0885412220969910
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0885412220969910 [Google Scholar]
  14. Gehl, J.
    (1987) Life between buildings: Using public space. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. (2010) Cities for people. Washington, DC: Island Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Gillette, H.
    (2012) Civitas by design: Building better communities, from the garden city to the new urbanism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Gonçalves, K.
    (2018) YO! Or OY? – say what? Creative place-making through a metrolingual artifact in Dumbo, Brooklyn. International Journal of Multilingualism, 16(1), 42–58. 10.1080/14790718.2018.1500259
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14790718.2018.1500259 [Google Scholar]
  18. Harvey, D.
    (1990) Flexible accumulation through urbanization: Reflections on “post-modernism” in the American city. Perspecta, 261, 251–272. 10.2307/1567167
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1567167 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hill, J.
    (2008) The Everyday Language of White Racism. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. 10.1002/9781444304732
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444304732 [Google Scholar]
  20. Hoyt, L.
    (2008) From North America to Africa: The Business Improvement District model and the role of policy entrepreneurs. InG. Morçöl and U. Zimmermann (eds), Business improvement districts: Research, theories, and controversies (pp.111–139). New York: Routledge. 10.1201/9781420045789.ch6
    https://doi.org/10.1201/9781420045789.ch6 [Google Scholar]
  21. Imrie, R., Pinch, S. & Boyle, M.
    (1996) Identities, Citizenship and Power in the Cities. Urban Studies, 33(8), 1255–1261. 10.1080/0042098966637
    https://doi.org/10.1080/0042098966637 [Google Scholar]
  22. Isenberg, A.
    (2004) Downtown America: A history of the place and the people who made it. Chicago, Ill.: Univ. of Chicago Press. 10.7208/chicago/9780226385099.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226385099.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  23. Jacobs, J.
    (1961) The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Järlehed, J. & Fanni, M.
    (2022) The politics of typographic placemaking: The cases of Tilburgsans and Dubai font. Visual Communication, 0(0). 10.1177/14703572211069612
    https://doi.org/10.1177/14703572211069612 [Google Scholar]
  25. Järlehd, J. & Jaworski, A.
    (2015) Typographic landscaping: Creativity, ideology, movement. Social Semiotics, 25(2), 117–125. 10.1080/10350330.2015.1010318
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2015.1010318 [Google Scholar]
  26. Järlehed, J., Löfdahl, M., Milani, T., Nielsen, H. L. & Rosendal, T.
    (2021) Entrepreneurial Naming and Scaling of Urban Places: the Case of Nya Hovås. InK. Leibring, L. Mattfolk, K. Neumüller, S. Nyström, & E. Pihl (eds), The Economy in Names: Values, Branding and Globalization; The Economy in Names Values, Branding and Globalization: Proceedings of Names in the Economy 6 International Conference (pp.71–86). Uppsala: Department of Archives and Research Uppsala, Institute for Language and Folklore.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Landry, R., & Bourhis, R. Y.
    (1997) Linguistic landscape and ethnolinguistic vitality: An empirical study. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 16(1), 23–49. 10.1177/0261927X970161002
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X970161002 [Google Scholar]
  28. Lee, B.
    (2015) Back to the Future writer: Bad guy Biff was based on Donald Trump. The Guardian, October23.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Leeman, J. & Modan, G.
    (2009) Commodified language in Chinatown: A contextualized approach to linguistic landscape. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 13(3), 332–62. 10.1111/j.1467‑9841.2009.00409.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2009.00409.x [Google Scholar]
  30. Lees, L.
    (2003) Visions of ‘urban renaissance’: The Urban Task Force report and the Urban White Paper. InR. Imrie & M. Raco (eds) Urban Renaissance? New Labour, community and urban policy. Bristol, UK: Policy Press. 61–82. 10.1332/policypress/9781861343802.003.0003
    https://doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781861343802.003.0003 [Google Scholar]
  31. Lydon, M. & Garcia, A.
    (2015) Tactical urbanism: Short-term action for long-term change. Washington, DC: Island Press. 10.5822/978‑1‑61091‑567‑0
    https://doi.org/10.5822/978-1-61091-567-0 [Google Scholar]
  32. Markusen, A. & Gadwa, A.
    (2010) Creative placemaking. Washington, DC: National Endowment of the Arts.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Markusen, A., Schrock, G.
    (2006) The artistic dividend: Urban artistic specialization and economic development implications. Urban Studies, 43(10), 1661–1686. 10.1080/00420980600888478
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00420980600888478 [Google Scholar]
  34. McCann, E. J.
    (2002) The cultural politics of local economic development: Meaning-making, place-making, and the urban policy process. Geoforum33(3), 385–398. 10.1016/S0016‑7185(02)00007‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0016-7185(02)00007-6 [Google Scholar]
  35. McDonough, T., McMahon, C., & Kotz, D. M.
    eds (2021) Handbook on social structure of accumulation theory. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 10.4337/9781788975971
    https://doi.org/10.4337/9781788975971 [Google Scholar]
  36. Miles, S.
    (2012) The neoliberal city and the pro-active complicity of the citizen consumer. Journal of Consumer Culture, 12(2), 216–230. 10.1177/1469540512446881
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540512446881 [Google Scholar]
  37. Modan, G.
    (2008) Mango fufu kimchi yucca: The depoliticization of ‘diversity’ in Washington, D.C. discourse. City & Society, 20(2), 188–221. 10.1111/j.1548‑744X.2008.00017.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-744X.2008.00017.x [Google Scholar]
  38. Modan, G. & Wells, K. J.
    (2022) Signs at work: New labor relations and structures of feeling in Washington, D.C.’s covid landscape. Linguistic Landscape, 8(2–3), 281–298. 10.1075/ll.21041.mod
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ll.21041.mod [Google Scholar]
  39. Molotch, H.
    (1976) The city as a growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American Journal of Sociology, 82(2), 309–332. 10.1086/226311
    https://doi.org/10.1086/226311 [Google Scholar]
  40. Murphy, K. M.
    (2015) Swedish design: An ethnography. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Nowak, J.
    (2007) The power of place-Making: A summary of creativity and neighborhood development: Strategies for community. Culture and Community Revitalization: A SIAP/ Reinvestment Fund Collaboration 2007–2009.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. O’Cleireacain, C. & Rivlin, A. M.
    (2002) A sound fiscal footing for the nation’s capital: A federal responsibility. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Peck, J.
    (2005) Struggling with the creative class. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(4), 740–70. 10.1111/j.1468‑2427.2005.00620.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2427.2005.00620.x [Google Scholar]
  44. Peyroux, E., Pütz, R. & Glasze, G.
    (2012) Business Improvement Districts (BIDs): The internationalization and contextualization of a ‘traveling concept. European Urban and Regional Studies, 19(2), 111–20. 10.1177/0969776411420788
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776411420788 [Google Scholar]
  45. Prifti, R. & Jaupi, F.
    (2021) Entrepreneurial urban regeneration: Business improvement districts as a form of organizational innovation. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Richards, G., Marques, L. & Mein, K.
    eds. (2015) Event design: Social perspectives and practices. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Schaller, S.
    (2019) Business Improvement Districts and the contradictions of placemaking:BID urbanism in Washington, D.C. Athens: University of Georgia Press. 10.2307/j.ctv5npk6z
    https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv5npk6z [Google Scholar]
  48. Schaller, S., & Guinand, S.
    (2017) Pop-up landscapes: A new trigger to push up land value?Urban Geography, 39(1), 54–74. 10.1080/02723638.2016.1276719
    https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1276719 [Google Scholar]
  49. Scollon, R. & Scollon, S. W.
    (2003) Discourses in Place: Language in the material world. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203422724
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203422724 [Google Scholar]
  50. Smith, F. M.
    (1999) Discourses of citizenship in transition: Scale, politics and urban renewal. Urban Studies, 36(1), 167–187. 10.1080/0042098993808
    https://doi.org/10.1080/0042098993808 [Google Scholar]
  51. Smith, N.
    (2002) New globalism, new urbanism: Gentrification as global urban strategy. Antipode, 34(3), 427–50. 10.1111/1467‑8330.00249
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8330.00249 [Google Scholar]
  52. Summers, B. T.
    (2019) Black in place: The spatial aesthetics of race in a post-Chocolate City. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654010.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654010.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  53. Suntikul, W., & Jachna, T.
    (2016) The co-creation/place attachment nexus. Tourism Management, 521, 276–86. 10.1016/j.tourman.2015.06.026
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2015.06.026 [Google Scholar]
  54. Talen, E.
    (2015) Do-It-Yourself urbanism: A history. Journal of Planning History, 14(2), 135–48. 10.1177/1538513214549325
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1538513214549325 [Google Scholar]
  55. Throgmorton, J. A.
    (2003) Planning as Persuasive Storytelling in a Global-Scale Web of Relationships. Planning Theory, 2(2), 125–151. 10.1177/14730952030022003
    https://doi.org/10.1177/14730952030022003 [Google Scholar]
  56. Trinch, S. L., & Snajdr, E.
    (2020) What the signs say: Language, gentrification, and place-making in Brooklyn. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. 10.2307/j.ctv160btqs
    https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv160btqs [Google Scholar]
  57. Valli, C., and Hammami, F.
    (2021) Introducing business improvement districts (BIDs) in Sweden: A social justice appraisal. European Urban and Regional Studies28(2), 155–72. 10.1177/0969776420925525
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776420925525 [Google Scholar]
  58. Waldeck, M.
    (2020) Typography and nationalism: The past and modernism under Nazi rule. Journal of Visual Political Communication6(1), 37–80. 10.1386/jvpc_00003_1
    https://doi.org/10.1386/jvpc_00003_1 [Google Scholar]
  59. Wells, K. J.
    (2015) A housing crisis, a failed law, and a property conflict: The US urban speculation tax. Antipode, 47(4), 1043–1061. 10.1111/anti.12146
    https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12146 [Google Scholar]
  60. Whyte, W.
    (1988) City: Rediscovering the center. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Zimmer, B.
    (2021) Pandemic dining on asphalt gets its own name. Wall Street JournalAugust14: C31.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Zukin, S.
    (1995) The cultures of cities. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error