The Creative Underclass: Youth, Race, and the Gentrifying City (2019, Duke University Press).

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This books challenges the common sense view that creativity has played a positive role in kickstarting urban renewal in American cities during the past two decades. Informed by cultural studies and critical whiteness studies, The Creative Underclass advances theorization of the unmarked whiteness of “the creative,” and, in turn, how both urban and educational policy and practice in the United States have invested culturally and economically in whiteness through state-subsidized urban renewal projects. Amidst this cultural landscape, this book illuminates how young people of color from low-income backgrounds deploy creative practices to trouble their social position as members of an “underclass” who stand in the way of urban progress, and how those same practices can become entangled in the revitalization of cities at their expense.

“Tyler Denmead offers a far-reaching look into the complexities of creative communities, implicating factors involving labor, economics, race, the arts, education, urban planning, and politics, all while joyfully, lovingly, and thoughtfully describing stories from young peoples’ lives. Denmead describes these multiple perspectives and what young people taught him and his change of perception with humility. His book’s credibility and power are even more compelling because of his capacity to comprehend and critique an institution he himself constructed. I’m in awe of all the intricacies and implications that Denmead has revealed.”

— Rebekah Modrak, author of Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice

“Since the early 2000s we have regarded the creative class as those with the greatest access to capital, technology, and robust economic environments. Tyler Denmead reveals a portion of the creative class that is dynamic and generative and forgotten—low income youth in under-served communities. This is a must-read for reimagining the creative talents of today’s urban youth.”

— Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin–Madison

About Me





I am the University Lecturer of Arts and Creativity in Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

I was honoured to be selected by the Cambridge University Student Union as the University’s “Best Lecturer” in 2019.

I am a Fellow and Director of Studies in Education at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge.

other scholarship and teaching

"I love you even if you don't think so." (on wall to the right)