Topics of Interest

Please note – this page is unfinished. If you have contributed to discussions of these topics in your work, please e-mail us. Thanks!



What is it?  Gentrification is a trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is a common and controversial topic in urban planning. It refers to shifts in an urban community lifestyle and an increasing share of wealthier residents and/or businesses and increasing property values. (Wikipedia)

How does it fit into the book? The theme of gentrification plays a role in “War in the Neighborhood” throughout the book, but particularly in the first chapters as we begin to understand the tension of L.E.S. community members who are watching their neighborhood become less and less affordable.


What is it?  Squatting is the action of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land–or a building, usually residential—that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use.

Author Robert Neuwirth suggested in 2004 that there were one billion squatters globally. He forecasts there will be two billion by 2030 and three billion by 2050. Yet, according to Kesia Reeve, “squatting is largely absent from policy and academic debate and is rarely conceptualised, as a problem, as a symptom, or as a social or housing movement.”

Squatting can be related to political movements, such as anarchist, autonomist, or socialist. It can be a means to conserve buildings or to provide housing. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? This book is literally about squatting from start to finish.


What is it?  Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism considers the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, because anarchists generally believe that human beings are capable of managing their own affairs on the basis of creativity, cooperation, and mutual respect, and when making individual decisions they are taking into account the concerns of others and the well-being of society. While anti-statism is central, anarchism entails opposing authority or hierarchical organisation in the conduct of all human relations. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Seth Tobocman and several other characters in the book are self-identified anarchists, featured throughout the pages.


What is it?  Direct action occurs when a group takes an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. This can include nonviolent and less often violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participants. Examples of non-violent direct action (also known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance) can include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, or hacktivism, while violent direct action may include political violence, sabotage, property destruction, or assaults. By contrast, electoral politics, diplomacy, negotiation, and arbitration are not usually described as direct action, as they are politically mediated. Non-violent actions are sometimes a form of civil disobedience, and may involve a degree of intentional law-breaking where persons place themselves in arrestable situations in order to make a political statement but other actions (such as strikes) may not violate criminal law.[1]

The aim of direct action is to either obstruct another political agent or political organization from performing some practice to which the activists object; or to solve perceived problems which traditional societal institutions (governments, religious organizations or established trade unions) are not addressing to the satisfaction of the direct action participants.

Non-violent direct action has historically been an assertive regular feature of the tactics employed by social movements, including Mohandas Gandhi’s Indian Independence Movement and the African-American Civil Rights Movement. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Squatting, protests, banner drops, free food distributed in a park, occupations of city buildings… all of these things feature in “War in the Neighborhood” and all of them are different examples of direct action.


What is it?  Homelessness is the condition of people without a permanent dwelling, like a house or apartment. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. The legal definition of homeless varies from country to country, or among different jurisdictions in the same country or region. The term homeless may also include people whose primary night-time residence is in a homeless shelter, a warming center, a domestic violence shelter, a vehicle (including recreational vehicles and campers), squatting, cardboard boxes, a tent, tarpaulins, or other ad hoc housing situations. According to the UK homelessness charity Crisis, a home is not just a physical space: it also provides roots, identity, security, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional well-being. American government homeless enumeration studies also include people who sleep in a public or private place not designed for use as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. There are a number of organizations who provide provisions for the homeless, but many of these institutions are contested for their treatment of the homeless and/or their opportunistic use of the homeless to receive funding, non-profit, or charitable status.

In 2005, an estimated 100 million (1 in 65) people worldwide were homeless, and as many as 1 billion people live as squatters, refugees or in temporary shelter, all lacking adequate housing. In western countries, the large majority of homeless are men (75–80%), with single males particularly overrepresented. (Wikipedia)

How does it fit into the book? “War in the Neighborhood” may be the first comic book in history where the majority of the characters are modern-day homeless people. In their portrayal as in real life, the homeless are a diverse group of people coming from many walks of life and opinions.


What is it?  Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling temporarily or permanently in the new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. Migration may be individuals, family units or in large groups. (Wikipedia)

How does it fit into the book? New York City’s Lower East Side was a landing pad for many immigrants to America throughout the first half of the 20th Century, and remains an important factor in the cultural and political shape taken by the neighborhood. This is explained in WITN’s first Chapter, but surfaces again and again, as new characters are introduced from Europe and the Caribbean.


What is it?  The Lower East Side, sometimes abbreviated as LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan, roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street. Traditionally an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, it began rapid gentrification in the mid-2000s, prompting The National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America’s Most Endangered Places. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? “War in the Neighborhood” takes place almost entirely in this section of Manhattan, with special attention given to the East Village and Alphabet City.


What is it?  The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? The idea of commonly-held space is an important part of squatting, tent cities, and “liberated zones” featured in “War in the Neighborhood”.


What is it?  Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms. As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of common infections like tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have working immune systems. These late symptoms of infection are referred to as AIDS. This stage is often also associated with weight loss.

HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV. Methods of prevention include safe sex, needle exchange programmes, treating those who are infected, and male circumcision. Disease in a baby can often be prevented by giving both the mother and child antiretroviral medication. There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy. Treatment is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection is 11 years.

In 2014 about 36.9 million people were living with HIV and it resulted in 1.2 million deaths. Most of those infected live in sub-Saharan Africa. Between its discovery and 2014 AIDS has caused an estimated 39 million deaths worldwide. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading. HIV is believed to have originated in west-central Africa during the late 19th or early 20th century. AIDS was first recognized by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 and its cause—HIV infection—was identified in the early part of the decade.

HIV/AIDS has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. The disease also has large economic impacts. There are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS such as the belief that it can be transmitted by casual non-sexual contact. The disease has become subject to many controversies involving religion including the Catholic church’s decision not to support condom use as prevention. It has attracted international medical and political attention as well as large-scale funding since it was identified in the 1980s. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Multiple characters in “War in the Neighborhood” are HIV+. The legendary New York-based direction action group, ACT UP, is featured in a couple of panels.


What is it?  Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege, and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers (or father figures) hold authority over the women and children. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage and descent is reckoned exclusively through the male line, sometimes to the point where significantly more distant male relatives take precedence over female relatives.
Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Particularly in Chapter “Knocking Down Joan’s Door”, Tobocman takes time to reflect the experiences of women squatters facing sexual harassment, physical violence, and threats from partners/housemates.


What is it?  White supremacy or white supremacism is a racist ideology centered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior in certain characteristics, traits, and attributes to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore white people should politically, economically and socially rule non-white people.

The term is also typically used to describe a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial domination by white people (as evidenced by historical and contemporary sociopolitical structures such as the Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws in the United States, and apartheid in South Africa). Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white, and different white supremacists identify various racial and cultural groups as their primary enemy. White supremacist groups have typically opposed people of color, immigrants, Jews, and Catholics.

In academic usage, particularly in usage drawing on critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” can also refer to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy a structural advantage (privilege) over other ethnic groups, both at a collective and an individual level.(Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Although “War in the Neighborhood” literally includes skin heads, nazi sympathizers and other more vocal advocates of white supremacy, “War in the Neighborhood” acknowledges that there are many underlying trends in society that were founded upon white supremacist beliefs.


What is it?  Police brutality is the deliberate use of excessive force, usually physical, carried out during law enforcement activities by a police officer engaging the civilian population. This type of behavior also includes verbal attacks and psychological intimidation by a police officer.

Widespread police brutality exists in many countries, even those that prosecute it.[1] It is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include: false arrest; intimidation; racial profiling; political repression; surveillance abuse; sexual abuse; and police corruption.[2] Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? While “War in the Neighborhood” undoubtedly has an anti-police bias, it is inherent from the beginning of the book that this attitude comes from the author witnessing and being aware of multiple accounts of police brutality in his own neighborhood.


What is it?  The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory developed in 1979 by Lenore E. Walker to explain patterns of behavior in an abusive relationship.
The term “cycle of violence” refers to repeated and dangerous acts of violence as a cyclical pattern, associated with high emotions and doctrines of retribution or revenge. The pattern, or cycle, repeats and can happen many times during a relationship. Each phase may last a different length of time, and over time the level of violence may increase.
It often refers to violent behavior learned as a child, and then repeated as an adult, therefore continuing on in a perceived cycle. (Wikipedia)
How does it fit into the book? Many of the fictional characters in “War in the Neighborhood” are the victims of abuse, physical and/or sexual assault. Tobocman addresses many of these characters’ histories within the framework of themselves having become abusers in the neighborhood squats.






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