EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W053)

Shaping urban inequalities: space and power in the city

Location JHT6
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam) email
Anouk de Koning (Radboud University Nijmegen) email
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Long Abstract

Debates regarding the role of urban space in the production, reproduction and contestation of social inequality have reemerged with the transformations of urban landscapes in the context of neoliberalism. We seek to build upon and extend these debates through ethnographically grounded explorations of the spatiality of power and inequality in urban contexts worldwide. We understand space as a crucial agent in the shaping of urban difference and social hierarchies through material and symbolic techniques of division and exclusion, ranging from the privatization and militarization of public space to spatialized narratives of inequality. Urban citizens respond to these inequities through strategies of accommodation and resistance that often rely on the management of mobility and visibility. Based on empirical investigations, this panel explores how urban space becomes defined and enclosed in, among others, class terms and, conversely, how social status is attained and contested through spatial practices.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Undocumented Christian place-making in the post-industrial European city

Author: Martijn Oosterbaan (Utrecht University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper takes up the call of Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas (2008) to explore 'the articulations of popular religiosity with the social and material restructuring of urban space' in the light of the transformations of the post-industrial European city. Whereas Dutch political discourse is hijacked by a language of insiders and outsiders - reproducing spatio-legal distinctions between citizens and marginals - most of the undocumented Brazilians who reside in Amsterdam are employed as domestic-cleaners. Their relatively open entry into what is often considered the most intimate socio-spatial sphere - the home - stands in sharp contrast to the increasing closure of the abstract spatial sphere of the nation and the denial to lawfully live in the city. This paper demonstrates that a portion of the undocumented Brazilians employs Christian-spatial ideologies and practices to oppose the boundaries between insiders and outsiders and claim a rightful place in the city.

Mobilizing urban margins and livelihoods: resituating street vending and legality in the northern Philippines

Author: B. Lynne Milgram (OCAD University)  email
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Long Abstract

Economic liberalization in the Philippines has meant dramatic growth in urban street economies. In Baguio City, itinerant vendors competing for street locations increasingly occupy in-between spaces inside Baguio's city-owned Public Market. By capturing customers' business from market leaseholders, vendors' new economic enclaves emerge as conflict zones and frontier junctures in which they renegotiate space relations of capital. This paper argues that itinerant vendors' activism to claim access to and rights over market spaces not sanctioned for private commercial use unsettle categories of formal/informal work, public space and legal/illegal practice. Vendors pay daily rental fees to market managers to occupy their 'illegal' locations and open new socio-economic spaces within old ones by operationalizing personalized agreements with leaseholders. Vendors' advocacy thus highlights transformative political possibilities for reconceptualizing space-labour relations and legal/illegal practice, thereby enabling them to fashion new forms of cultural citizenship.

The bottle-collectors: outlining a new urban phenomenon in German cities

Author: Sebastian Moser  email
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Long Abstract

Today it is inevitable to walk through a German city without noticing people rummaging through trash cans. Even though this behavior is associated with poverty and homelessness, the appearance of these people, at first glance, do not conform to the homeless. They are looking for returnable bottles and cans. The legal context for this activity is a law that came into effect in 2006, concerning the organization of the return and compensation for every kind of bottle or can. There is almost no research on returnable-item collectors for welfare states like Germany, even though recycling is well studied in the context of less developed countries.

The project explores the collectors strategies of "doing-being-inconspicuous" during their activities by using ethnography. These strategies can be explained, besides others, as a reaction to neoliberal urban policies. Growing tendencies to keep commercial areas free from undesirable intruders, i.e. people who lack purchasing power, are prevalent in almost every German city these days. The motivation for bottle-collectors to act inconspicuously is furthered by trying to avoid the social stigma. Nonetheless, bottle-collecting remains highly visible. As bottle-collecting relies on the public space, wherein valuable trash is discarded, the highly frequented inner city areas form a social space of an interface between bottle-collectors and bottle-consumers. This interplay in the public space between people of differing classes, discloses modern phenomena of urban inequality: the case of bottle-collectors touches upon attempts of masking poverty in the public sphere.

'Cut the cutout culture!' Shifting urban landscape and the politics of spectacle in Chennai

Author: Roos Gerritsen (Heidelberg University)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I will explore the frictions between unanticipated uses of the city and a discourse of beautification and rationalization of urban space in the southern Indian city Chennai. Chennai is well-known for the barrage of billboards, posters, and wall paintings exhibited by mostly political supporters and fan clubs displaying their respective leaders and heroes. Now, Chennai's city administration is intervening in this spectacle of display by initiating a campaign to regulate this visual "pollution" of unanticipated forms of display within the city. What is striking however is that the politicians that now try to curb these unregulated and "disorderly" formations of the city pre-eminently initiated this visual regime of representation and therefore actually represent this part of the city par excellence. In this paper, I will explore this paradox, which unfolds in debates on the urban fabric of the city.

Urban naturalisms: class, race and space in Kingston, Jamaica

Author: Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

Like many other postcolonial cities, the socio-spatial hierarchies that characterize Kingston, Jamaica reflect the legacy of colonialism and slavery. Socio-economic and political power is still, to a large extent, associated with skin color and access to specific social spaces, notwithstanding the increased contestation and destabilization of these hierarchies in recent decades. This paper analyses class, race and space as co-produced, focusing on the interconnections between the social, natural and built environment of the city. Specifically, the paper explores the ways in which concepts of urban pollution - disease and dirt - organize relations between raced and classed bodies and urban space. It introduces the concept of 'urban naturalisms' to indicate the naturalization of urban inequalities through the conflation of people, places and pollution. It analyses the ways in which such naturalisms are both reproduced and contested through spatialized narratives and strategic mobilities.

The street, the square and the stairway: informal ways to manage the difference

Authors: Ximene Rêgo (ISCTE)  email
Raquel Carriconde (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)  email
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Long Abstract

The fear of crime, so often associated with the fear of Others in the arena of public life, has been discussed as a threat to the very essence of the city: the celebration of diversity. It will be possible to reconcile the conflicting images - one that exalts the difference and one in which the difference is to be feared? From this question, we reflect upon a data set resulting from an ethnography conducted in Porto (Portugal) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in three observation units with a very distinct socio-spatial structure: a street, a square and a stairway.

It is understood that the social space is structured around proximity and estrangement/distance relationships which are, in turn, hierarchical relationships; these express, ultimately, a certain coexistence between the good and bad city or, in other words, between the city center and the peripheral city. Even if not fully airtight - as there are multiple crossings and mediation outlined between characters of different places of the city - these utterances articulate, however, an unequal occupation of space. Taking into account the issues of crime and eco-social conditions of their places of residence, this article seeks to illustrate how inhabitants of the street, the square and the stairway produce narratives and procedures that justify the day-to-day management of invisible boundaries.

Walls, fences and barriers: urban social inequalities and lack of integration

Author: Sonia Roitman  email
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Long Abstract

Walls, fences and barriers are distinctive elements of gated communities. These developments have proliferated in cities worldwide over the last three decades, becoming part of the urban landscape. In many cases, they evidence urban social inequalities in the territory by preventing social interaction between gated community residents and residents living in the surrounding areas.

This paper analyses the findings of a qualitative research on the social practices of gated community residents in Argentina as well as the practices of the residents of the area surrounding these gated communities. It considers to what extend these two groups perform similar social practices that could lead to their social integration despite of living separated through physical elements.

'The sun in the neighbourhood is only for those who can pay for it': fleshing out the residential dimension of class in Ciutat de Mallorca

Author: Marc Morell (Universitat de les Illes Balears / Universitat de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

In recent years, fashionable bars have burst into Es Barri, the once working-class neighbourhood par excellence, and later red-light district, of the historic centre of Ciutat de Mallorca (Spain). Along with them, and the odd tourist, trendy neo-bohemians, committed eco-consumers, philanthropic civil servants and lovers of the past have also settled there. As one local poet says, he himself, the gipsy chord, the prostitute, the drug dealer, the pensioner widow, among many others, have mostly left, either pushed out or evicted via public-led regeneration. Meanwhile, neighbourhood unionism, initially working-class-driven, has come to equally embrace the cultural turn and the politics of demand. Based on ethnographic research, this paper stresses the importance of residence, understood as non-workplace, in defining class. Whereas the focus on regeneration allows us to coax class conflicts out of the closet, the update on earlier working-class-driven neighbourhood unionism traditions offers a field for further opposition to gentrification.

The space of class: reflections on neoliberal Cairo

Author: Anouk de Koning (Radboud University Nijmegen)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores space as a key mechanism of social stratification in the context of Cairo's increasingly segregated cityscape. New divides in middle class Cairo revolve around interrelated dichotomies of cosmopolitan versus local, English versus Arabic, and private versus public. These divisions find material expression in the form of a distinct exclusive up-market Cairo versus a vast, more diverse and less select cityscape that caters to middle, lower middle and working class Cairenes. I argue that being knowledgeable about, and able to access, negotiate and feel at home in up-market Cairo has become a decisive measure and important instrument of class divisions and distinctions. Space can thus be seen as key to the creation of class hierarchies in 21st century Cairo.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.