Gentrification and culture: a discussion based on experiences in Guadalajara, Mexico and Barcelona, Spain

Reception: July 31, 2020

Acceptance: July 31, 2020

This interview is a conversation that occurred during the summer of 2019, planned in the context of an international intensive summer course offered by the Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education (iteso) entitled Social Psychology, gentrification and culture. We seek to raise parallels and distinctions between the way in which urban dispossession processes operate in both Latin American and European cities, especially from the situated analysis of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Barcelona, Spain. The discussion addresses the relationship of abstract concepts such as public space and citizenship; sociocultural constructions such as race and gender, and the political, economic and cultural phenomenon known as gentrification, understood as a global process based on a city model based on the commercialization of urban life.

The interview is focused on the perspectives and experiences of two specialists on the subject. On the one hand, there is Nizaiá Cassián Yde, a doctor in social psychology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (uab), currently a professor-researcher at the Open University of Catalonia, with experience in the field of urban studies, transformations in the contemporary post-Fordist city and feminist studies, particularly in the analysis of socio-spatial relationships around care, the body and social production and reproduction. On the other hand, Mauro Castro-Campos, has a doctorate in Political Science from the uab, Associate Professor at the Department of Business Organization of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (CPU) and advisor to the Barcelona City Council for the creation of a legal, regulatory and administrative framework that recognizes community management and urban commons.

The interviewees mention the gentrification as a political-conceptual tool that makes it possible to discuss other processes such as the elitization of urban environments under the discourses of their renovation, revitalization or recovery through pedestrianization plans, bicycle lanes or the creation of green areas. In his opinion, these types of speeches, with an explicit moral charge, facilitate the expulsion of neighbors and merchants who correspond to a divergent lifestyle and even aesthetics.

The role of culture is also mentioned, which, in the processes of urban dispossession, goes from being a right to predominantly be managed as a resource, in collusion with state authorities, the tourism industry and the so-called cultural industries, in what is also it has been recognized as the “Barcelona model” (Delgado, 2007). In this sense, Cassián shares a reflection on the use of culture understood as spectacle in the case of elitization processes in Guadalajara. He questions the premise of recovering public space without first questioning what led to its loss, and points out that projects such as the failed Guggenheim museum planned to be built in the Huentitán ravine or the case of Ciudad Creativa Digital make urban privatization projects invisible due to the benefactor speeches that sustain them. There have been other ways of privatizing urban life, such as walled subdivisions or expansion to the periphery (Cassián, 2016).

Castro presents the alternative of urban commons as a strategy for the defense of the right to the city in the face of the housing crisis developed by the hyper-commodification of the home, neighborhoods, spaces and public services. At this point, he also emphasizes the experiences of residents of Barcelona who have built cooperatives to manage their homes and shared spaces (Castro and Martí-Costa, 2016).

Finally, both interviewees share their position regarding the role of academia, and specifically urban studies, in the face of real estate speculation processes. They question the role of expert knowledge that intervenes in the city without understanding in a complex way the diversity of urban life that rests on the daily knowledge of the city's inhabitants. In accordance with the foregoing, they highlight the need for greater self-critical reflection on the part of specialists and the recognition of collective forms of organization in the face of displacement.

The interview is also accompanied by the editing by Mónica Vargas Michel, who made an audiovisual montage with different scenes that represent the problems and realities addressed in the conversation. A good part of these scenes are the result of the research work done by members of the Urban Co-laboratory Professional Application Project, dedicated to understanding the processes of urban dispossession in the center of Guadalajara since 2018, in collaboration with neighborhood organizations and groups such as Urban Caracol , CulturAula and La Coyotera radio.

Bibliography

Castro-Coma, Mauro and Marc Martí-Costa (2016). "Urban Commons: from collective management to the right to the city", eure (Santiago), vol. 42, no. 125, pp. 131-153. https://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0250-71612016000100006

Delgado, Manuel (2007). The lying city: fraud and misery of the "Barcelona model". Barcelona: Waterfall.

Cassián, Nizaiá (2016). What is a creative city made of? A problem of spatialization and measurement in the government of vitality. Doctoral thesis. Barcelona: Autonomous University of Barcelona. Retrieved from: https://ddd.uab.cat/pub/tesis/2016/hdl_10803_399889/ncy1de1.pdf, accessed July 28, 2020.


Christian O. Grimaldo-Rodríguez He has a degree in psychology from the University of Guadalajara, a master in Regional Studies from the Jalisco College and a doctorate in Social Sciences with a specialty in Social Anthropology from the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology. Member of the sni (candidate for researcher). He has addressed various problems associated with urban phenomena such as imaginaries, social perception, identity, transit, dispossession and conflict over territory in places in the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, Puebla and Barcelona. He has experience in urban studies from a social science perspective, specifically from social psychology, urban anthropology, and human geography. At iteso coordinates the Urban Co-laboratory Professional Application Project. orcid:00-0001-8761-693X.

Hector Robledo is part of the Caracol urban collective, urban research on the street, which since 2011 studies and documents urban phenomena in the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, such as collective public transport and whitewashing due to dispossession in the center of Guadalajara. The first process is the product of the documentary El Hombre-Camión. Héctor Robledo Coordinates, together with Christian Grimaldo, the Professional Application Project of the iteso Urban co-laboratory, with which they currently collaborate in neighborhood actions in defense of neighborhood life in the Mexicaltzingo neighborhood, in addition to carrying out El VecinRadio, a community radio program / podcast about neighborhood struggles in the amg, which broadcasts live on La Coyotera Radio on Tuesdays at 6 pm Since 2014 it has been a member of the Common Front of Users and Operators of public transport. orcid: 0000-0001-7245-6160.

Mauro Castro Campos He has a doctorate in Political Science from the uab, Associate Professor at the Department of Business Organization of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (CPU) and advisor to the Barcelona City Council for the creation of a legal, regulatory and administrative framework that recognizes community management and urban commons. orcid: 0000-0001-7281-5215.

Nizaiá Cassián Yde She has a doctorate in social psychology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (uab), currently a professor-researcher at the Open University of Catalonia, with experience in the field of urban studies, transformations in the contemporary post-Fordist city and feminist studies, particularly in the analysis of socio-spatial relationships around care, the body and social production and reproduction. orcid: 0000-0002-5673-7293.

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[…] According to an analysis by Nizaiá Cassián Yde, doctor in social psychology and professor-researcher at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), this type of program uses culture as a strategy to recover public space but in a failed way since it neutralizes or white out the reason why those spaces were originally lost; they really make invisible or hide benefits from private entities to the detriment of the inhabitants of these areas. […]

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