Panels and Abstracts

Modern-Colonial Geographies in Latin America

Panel 1 – Territories of Extraction  (Day 1, April 5, 10:45-12:15)
(a)Territories of Hope: spatio-temporal utopias and sacrificial territories

Melissa Moreano

The Colectivo de Geografía Crítica del Ecuador produces collective geographical knowledge and militant research on territorial conflicts in the so-called ‘post-neoliberal’ Ecuador. Here, the regime of the ‘Revolución ciudadana’ has expanded extractive capitalism, albeit with better distribution of wealth that, however, did not change the country’s structural inequalities.

In this context, the targeted areas for the expansion of extractive capitalism are mainly indigenous territories, named by the power as “sacrificial areas” or “disposable zones” (Svampa 2011). Such “socially empty” areas do not contain “elements or assets that can be valued by capital” (Svampa 2011: 203); but also, the areas ordained for extractive activities are usually render uninhabited due to their low demographic density and/or the local peoples’ form territoriality, and hence they can be sacrificed. The reluctance to understand other forms of territoriality reveals the coloniality and racism from which the logic of the state territorial order operates. The incoherence of these practices becomes more relevant considering the plurinational character of the Ecuadorian state.

Stressing the strong territorial component inherent to these tensions, we recognize those areas as sacrificial territories that have been historically produced as marginalized spaces and hence occupied by racialized peoples after successive processes of des(re)territorialization (Haesbaert 2011). In dialogue with the geographies of hope (Harvey 2000, Radcliffe 2007, Hazlewood 2010) and using our five years of experience, this paper analyzes the emergence of spatial-temporal utopias (Harvey 2000) from within the sacrificial territories.

Our analysis is divided into two parts. In the first part we develop a theoretical review on sacrifice and hope in the critical geography literature, including feminist geographies. Then, looking to reflect on the way that sacrifice and hope had occurred in Ecuador, we present some emblematic cases of territorial tensions in the country during the last decade. The analysis found that sacrifice is an intrinsic element to the production of the national territory. In this sense, power defines the territories – places, peoples and bodies- that need to be discarded for reaching the modernizing ideal: they are the necessary tribute to achieve capitalist modernization. But it is precisely in those territories that spatial-temporal utopias emerge as a result of the intrinsic contradictions of capital as well as from the colonial difference and the rebellion of the bodies. The emergent territories of hope are thus a core reference for both disclosure and resistance, as they also enunciate that the sacrificial territories exist, compelling, among other things, for a new approach to the urban/rural binary.

(b) Mapping the trail of violence: The memorialization of space as a form of resistance    

Elva Orozco Mendoza

How does a critical examination of space and architecture shed light on the production of zones of violence? What tools and mechanisms organize space in such a way that makes the exercise of violence invisible? Moreover, how is violence spatially contested and at what cost? Traditionally, zones of violence are rendered visible through sheer destruction, intense deterioration, and absolute impenetrability protecting mass killings and explicit mandates to take life. However, zones of violence are not just defined by the number of casualties produced through new or even conventional notions of warfare, but also by the gradual abandonment and quiet elimination of the material conditions that sustain life. This paper looks at the memorialization of space in contemporary Mexico as a practice that aims to resist the increasing attempt to normalize the fabrication of entire zones of violence. It offers a reading of Jalal Toufic’s imagery of the withdrawal of tradition pass a surpassing disaster and Ariela Azoulay’s theory of photographic citizenship to illuminate the role of material space in exposing the scope and nature of the catastrophe provoked by the ongoing war on drugs. It argues that Mexico’s militarized approach to combating organized crime is, in fact, a civil war that seeks a fundamental reconfiguration of public/private space.

(c) Landscapes of Extraction, Memories of Dispossession: Notes on Some Contemporary Representations of the Desert in Latin America

Sebastián Figueroa

Cultural representations, such as those proposed by literature, cinema, and the arts, are critical to understand the multiple layers of the capital expansion in Latin American’s history, particularly in relation to landscapes or geographies that have been essential to processes of resource extraction and political domination. In this presentation, I analyze some contemporary representations of the Desert in Latin America from an eco-critical perspective, taking it as a politically constructed landscape, a zone of extraction of resources and a way to question the limits between the human and the nonhuman. Starting from a genealogy of the colonial and postcolonial imaginaries of the desert, which understood it as a space of otherness and domination within the civilization-barbarism dichotomy, I dwell subsequently on some recent representations of the desert in documentary films and novels linked to different regions of Latin American geography.

First, I focus on Patricio Guzmán’s 2010), a documentary film intertwining three different explorations of the past conducted in the Atacama Desert at the same time but from different scales, which transforms the desert into an archive that contains as many stories as layers of time. The documentary also depicts processes of mineral extraction that occurred in the past and left nothing but ruins, revealing in this way the history of dispossession inscribed in the area. Secondly, I examine Pedro Mairal’s El año del desierto (2012), a novel about the effects of the intemperie, a sort of ecological catastrophe that turns the city of Buenos Aires into a desert and pushes society to a historical regression that comes down to the years previous to the Spanish conquest. By focusing on the environmental making of capitalism, and the social precariousness generated by the neoliberal reforms in Argentina, I explore the different spatiotemporal imaginaries and practices of resource exploitation that the novel shapes by means of a renewed battle between the city and the countryside. Finally, I comment on Bolaño’s 2666, a novel that shows the necropolitical strategies that come along the production of raw materials and commodities for global consumption in the Chihuahan Desert by way of connecting the World War II and the femicides in the US/Mexico border.

By looking all these texts as a palimpsest, I explore the successive processes of accumulation of resources and bodies inscribed in the memory of the landscape. I also pay attention to the blind spots of the palimpsest, that is, the discontinuities in the process of territorial integration that characterized capitalist expansion. Such interruptions allow me to extract images of failed synchronizations of non-capitalist and capitalist areas of the desert, which creates room for spaces in-between and movements of resistance and of writing back of the history of colonial and modern appropriation. Taking the desert as an image of the end of history, these texts ultimately allow me to discuss the conditions of a possible ecological and economic disaster as well as the remnants of life that emerge from there.


Panel 2 – Postcolonial Landscapes (Day 1, April 5, 13:30-15:00)

(a) Dreams of development and haunted modernity: colonial memories in contemporary Potosí

Sue A. S. Iamamoto

Everything is finished, all is affliction and anguish, weeping and sighing. Without doubt this has been one of the greatest downfalls ever to overtake one of the world’s peoples: to see such diversity, such incomparable wealth turn to dust, to become nothing (Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela, 1965, pp. 322–323).

Written in the beginning of the eighteenth century by Bartolomé Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela, Potosí’s greatest chronicler, these words depict the decadence that followed the first silver mining cycle in the city. Two hundred years later and with less grandeur, Carlos Medinaceli (1955), another famous potosino writer, describes a local politician haunted by the sentence “the city is quiet, but sad and afflicted”. While Potosí has been seen as the beginning of the extractivist model in Latin America (Machado Aráoz, 2014), transplanted to other cities and regions in the world, there is a certain fascination in studying how the colonial mining resonated over the next four hundred years in the city built to exploit the legendary mountain. Wealth, abundance, anguish, affliction and sadness: the words chosen by literary works express the deep impacts of externally determined economic cycles in local population.

However, potosinos are themselves defined by mining, by its promises of prosperity and development and the dangers of its socioenvironmental impacts. The empirical data of this paper comes from interviews with civic leaders of Potosí on the motivations of a 19-day civic strike held in August 2010, when local inhabitants demanded from Evo Morales’ government a series of industrialising measures that would help the city and the region to profit from its resource extractivism. On one hand, these leaders express expectations regarding what they considered a positive use of resource extractivism. They demanded more autonomy from the national government, to become a “federal” department, in order to manage the income generated by mining royalties themselves. Tropes that identified Potosí as a “dairy cow” and the potosino as “a poor man sitting in a chair of gold” were extremely common. On the other hand, they feared the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the extractivism. During the last centuries, Potosí has faced mercury contamination, a failure of the dam system that killed thousands of people and now was threatened by the crumbling of the Cerro Rico itself. There was a clear fear of depopulation, that Potosí would become a ghost city, the unavoidable destiny of a mining camp.

These discourses express a deep colonial memory of wealth and decay, sustained and reproduced not only by the literary works cited above, but also by popular legends and, specially, by the geography of the city. Crowned by a still economically active Cerro Rico, Potosí has a landscape organised by colonial socioeconomic divisions, such as the distinction between indigenous and Spanish neighbourhoods. This colonial imaginary haunts contemporary inhabitants, who, as a local journalist explained, face the mountain both as a curse and a destiny.

(b) Entangled Territories: Geographies of the Afro-descendants of the Colombian Caribbean

Ana Laura Zavala Guillen

In this paper, I analyze what I call the ‘geographies of the Afro-descendants of the Colombian Caribbean’ because they encompass material and symbolic territories, which were built primarily during the historical process of marronage in the 17th century. Marronage was a strategy developed by African slaves to escape from cities, mines and farms in order to build their own free communities in remote places away from slavery. In this sense, San Basilio del Palenque, which is located close to the city of Cartagena de Indias, is an example of these geographies.

The community of San Basilio del Palenque (also known as Palenque) has been analyzed as a single space by anthropologists and historians, among others. However, what I propose is to understand this community in a novel way by delving into the different communities that co-exist within the idea of San Basilio del Palenque. These communities act as entangled territories that characterize the complexity of the geographies of the Afro-descendants of the Colombian Caribbean. One of these territories is ancestral, which was lost and never recovered by the community, but lives in its collective memory even with the exile of the palenqueros (or members of the community of San Basilio del Palenque). This ancestral territory was clandestine first and then became a town recognized by the colonial regime in 1714. Since then, it has faced dynamics of dispossession until the present day due to violence. Violence, as conceptualized by Johan Galtung, includes misery and ecological degradation as its types.

Therefore, strategies have been developed by San Basilio del Palenque to overcome territorial dispossession since the colonial times to the present day. In this paper, I explore one of these strategies, which is the creation of new communities of palenqueros outside the boundaries of the town of San Basilio del Palenque. Even in exile, these communities continue being entangled in the town and among themselves. I call these communities ‘migratory palenques’ because they are the result of transnational and local diasporas (including internally forced displacement) towards urban centres, for instance, the city of Cartagena de Indias and Barranquilla.

The strategy of building migratory palenques serves as: 1) a coping mechanism against both exile and racial discrimination (including harassment exercised by other Afro-descendants); 2) a mechanism for gaining space within White cities with a tangible cost for the palenqueros: the cultural appropriation of their traditions by the tourism business that entertains foreigners and locals; and 3) a mechanism that reinforces the palenquero identity with an impact on the town of San Basilio del Palenque, and public policy on ethnic-education at the national level. However, cultural alienation is a phenomenon also present in the migratory palenques, for instance, in those living in internally forced displacement.


(C) El cambio climático y sus efectos en los territorios del altiplano: “nosotros conocemos los cambios que ustedes nos dan en números”

Carla Virginia Rodas Arano

This research exposes the effects of climate change in different territories of the Bolivian Altiplano: Taypi Cañuhuma and Tiahuanacu. These groups, with their own characteristics; one dedicated to the breeding of camelid livestock and the other dedicated to agricultural production; They have developed different strategies to deal with droughts and changes in the rainy season, the disappearance of animals and the appearance of other species.

Given these risks, the altiplanic communities have tried to reestablish their relationship with the environment and their way of perceiving and connecting with the territory from the community. The community organization of the territory, different from the individuality of the earth, perceives a territory-network similar to a living organism. In the case of the Aymara territory it includes extended territories and discontinuous territories that together will form the living territory: a territory that is reproduced from the preservation of social relations with different ecological levels.

Likewise, these territories have been reconstructed from different transformations of the context: from the pre-colony, colony, republic, to the present Plurinational State of Bolivia. The purpose is to examine and compare the different processes, considering both their particularities and similarities. It is demonstrated that, throughout history, both indigenous populations have developed a series of strategies that involved territorial reconstructions that, to a certain extent, have allowed to preserve a conception of the community territory.


Panel 3 – Colonial Legacies (Day 1, April 5, 15:15-16:45)

(a) A religious government of spaces and territories in Latin America: the technology of geo-political rule in the Jesuit Guarani Missions”

Edgar Zavala Pelayo

The institutions that engaged in a broad, intensive and pervasive project of “civilization” in colonial Latin America from the 1500s to the 1800s comprised not only the representative bodies and agents of the Spanish crown but also the Catholic Church’s. The latter’s was a “civilization” (and/through religious conversion) not only of the individuals and populations they encountered but also of the “wild” territories and “pagan” spaces they found in this continent. More specifically, the Catholic Church, through its networks of “urban” bishoprics and parishes and “rural” reducciones, missions and frontier missions, constituted one of the central institutions that intervened directly and intensively in the “civilizatorial” exploration, organization and defense of the territories and spaces in colonial Latin America.

A number of works by historians have provided us with insightful descriptions of the planning, location, internal organization, clerical structure, and overall development of parishes and reducciones as well as larger sets of missions, bishoprics and archbishoprics across colonial Latin America. Some historical-anthropological studies, have also contributed with fascinating analyses on the (re)organization of the inner, domestic and communal spaces that the Catholic Church carried out within colonial towns and missions. A theoretical perspective that can also contribute to the understanding of the Catholic Church’s spatial interventions and actual government of territories in colonial Latin America is Michel Foucault’s governmentality and his concept of pastoralism –or religions as centuries-lasting technologies of (macro) government, and (micro) self-government. Although the pastoralism that Foucault theorized is not entirely applicable to the colonial context of Latin America, the concept and its governmentality perspective are particularly useful to account for the colonial Catholic Church, and colonial Catholicism overall, as a governmental regime parallel to the Spanish crown’s.

From a critical governmentality perspective, this paper analyses the geo-political logics of such colonial Catholic regime, as well as the soft and hard techniques for the government of territories displayed by a specific Catholic religious order in a particular region –the Jesuit Missionaries in the Guarani missions of South America (Paraguay, North of Argentina, South of Brazil and Uruguay today). The paper also discusses the peculiar “spatial training”, or the self-government through spatialization, that the Jesuit missionaries experienced systematically through the practice of the Ignatian “Spiritual Exercises”. By discussing these (macro) logics and techniques of territorial government and their (micro) self-governmental complement as found in Ignatius of Loyola’s exercises, I will argue that the Catholic regime developed in colonial Latin America a particular technology of geo-political rule. This concept, with its governmentality approach, will be presented as a key contribution to the debates on the territorial and spatial dynamics in colonial Latin America. The paper will conclude by endorsing the relevance of further studies that analyze the transformation and differential impact of this religious technology of geopolitical rule in the complexities of Latin American macro and micro geographies in the 21st century.

(b) Trading time and space in a Brazilian mining district

Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos

Miguel Burnier is a district in the city of Ouro Preto Brazil which is undergoing a process of depopulation. Mining activities in the area have meant living conditions to residents that include dust, noise and heavy vehicle traffic. Most residents have left the region and those who have stayed are trying to negotiate removal or better infrastructure to cope with pollution. However, the departure of residents from this small district in Brazil’s countryside is also a reminder that mining and urban living is not always viable, which raises discussions about Brazil’s cultural heritage. Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World heritage site, a city preserved in Brazil because of its architectural and historical legacy. Its baroque architecture is unquestionably a legacy from a time when gold mines thrived in the region, and that urban complexity only exists because of mineral exploration in the early days of the 18th century. In this paper, I will use ethnographic methods and archival research to discuss the importance of mining for cultural heritage in Ouro Preto, I will discuss how central Ouro Preto and its rural districts have taken different paths in defining a narrative for its past and future.

(c) El sentipensar colonial: Understanding geographies of extraction in Latin America through emotional political ecologies

Marien González Hidalgo

Several political ecologists have criticised the utopian aspects of extractivism (Andreucci and Kallis, 2017; Svampa, 2011), showing how it comes to be associated with narratives of improvement and the education of habits, aspirations and desires (Escobar, 2014; Li, 2007). This work is useful for understanding the correlation between the imposition of spatialities and of concrete forms of political thinking (Dikeç, 2012). However, we need to further consider how the imposition of spatial-political embodied feelings plays also a role in the establishment and expansion of extractivism. Understanding geographies of extraction through the lens of emotional political ecology let us better grasp, for example,  the scope of daily extractivist, colonial dynamics in governing the self in territories of extraction, and the ways in which subjects engage and resist, emotionally, to practices of environmental degradation (González-Hidalgo and Zografos, 2017).

Since the times of Spanish colonialism, extractivist activities in Latin America have been facilitated through violence, but, also, importantly, through politics of seduction (the colonisers offering trinkets and baubles or “colored mirrors”). In this paper I analyse how current politics of extractivism in Latin America use emotions as effective facilitators for capital accumulation, since they are incorporated and strategically used to push disciplinary and hegemonic (territorial, extractivist) projects. My research in southern Chile shows how emotions are constitutive of the educational campaigns and negotiations of state and private forestry enterprises and institutions, showing the use of conscious, strategic and deliberative emotional strategies for disciplining subjectivities, seeking to control locals’ love, anxiety, anger and desire and ensuring the continuity of extractivist projects. Considering the emotional geographies of extractivism adds nuances to the understanding of the epistemic dimensions of extrativism and coloniality (Quijano, 2007). Revealing extractivism as an emotional, sentipensante project (Konings, 2015) offers possibilities to expand the critical, politically-engaged analysis of the current of colonial extraction in Latin America.


Panel 4 – Urban Exclusion and Resistance (Day 2, April 6, 09:30-11:00)

(a) Against the Grid: the Aesthetic Emergence of Villas Miseria in Buenos Aires

Agnese Codebò

This paper traces how poverty emerged culturally in midcentury Buenos Aires. It does so by examining a space of encounter, a kind of “thirdspace” in Edward Soja’s words, where reality and abstraction meet. Here this encounter features the State plans aimed at eradicating villas miseria (the local term for slums), and a corpus of cultural objects depicting slums between 1957 and 1963. My basic claim is that the politically-motivated conceptual erasure of the slum informed its aesthetic representation. In particular I look at Bernardo Verbitsky’s novel Villa Miseria también es América and Antonio Berni’s series of multimedia collages focused on the fictional character of Juanito Laguna. As my research shows, each of these texts responds to the state plans to eradicate the slums. Each takes up the idea of the slum as a tabula rasa, but inserts into this plane an excess of materiality rather than a lack. By looking at the shared forms of these objects, the talk describes how culture came to reinsert the slum within the city’s regular grid, interrupting the linearity imagined by the State. Such a gesture will ultimately have the consequence of turning poverty into something absolutely consumable.


(b) “Fragmented Bodies, Divided Cities” Cultural Urban Resistance in Early 20th-Century Bogota and Mexico City”

Katherine Anson

In this article, I explore the way in which marginalized individuals, in early 20th Century Bogota and Mexico City, negotiated their insertion into the national modernization project by forging their own performativity in the normative landscape of the city. I analyze newspaper clippings, maps, and novels to explore how through the performance of regional practices that were considered perverse and immoral by the official discourse–such as the production and consumption of chicha and pulque, regional alcoholic drinks, the habitation of tenement houses, and prostitution–non-normative subjects opposed the state’s urban planning.


(c) The Reinvention of Failure: Successive Exclusions & the Utility of Margins in La Boca, Buenos Aires

Ryan Centner

Just south of the historic centre of Buenos Aires, the neighbourhood of La Boca took shape as a busy port area during the 1800s, where the mouth of the smaller Riachuelo flows into the massive Río de la Plata. Once an industrial and seafaring hub, La Boca has long been defined by physical and social marginality in Argentina’s capital, and since the 1970s the neighbourhood became the target of various projects of reinvention in infrastructure, architecture, economic bases, and cultural institutions. But efforts at remaking this area, while certainly leading to some changes, have failed not only at thoroughgoing transformation; they have failed also to alter the functional and symbolic positioning of La Boca as a space of failure. Indeed, La Boca represents certain extreme features of the spatialised reinvention of failure that has characterised the experience of many poorer areas of Buenos Aires since the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) and through the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s and their long-lasting aftermath. Building on an historical tracing of exclusions in the area, this paper focuses ethnographically on how populations resident in La Boca negotiate the numerous more recent (since the early 2000s) urban reforms they confront in this scenario of successively reinvented failures around them. In particular, there is an emphasis on margins as variously useful for distinct groups, shaping their sense of relationship to the core of Buenos Aires, to the peripheral areas surrounding the capital, to the more distant provinces and adjacent countries from which some residents have migrated, and to a range of significant sites (real or imagined, current or historical) in other parts of the world that shape perceptions and embodied practices in La Boca against a backdrop of ever-mutating, ever-present, yet socially productive “failure.”


Panel 5 – The Postcolonial City (Day 2, April 6, 11:30-13:00)

(a) Urban Erasure and the Making of Informal Activism: Morro do Castelo

Ana Ozaki

The demolition of Morro do Castelo (Hill of the Castle) in 1922 in Rio de Janeiro marked the transformation from a colonial to a modern condition in Brazil right after WWI. Historically, the hill had hosted the first urban nucleus of the city in the 16th century, as well as, eventually, one of Rio’s first tenements, before the mayor Carlos César de Oliveira Sampaio’s efforts to relinquish and rectify the area as part of the International Exhibition’s plan in celebration of the Centenary of Independence of the country.

Shaped by national progress and modernization narratives, 1922 was not only the year of Brazil’s International Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro (the capital) and its associated major urban renovation process, but also marked the foundation of Brazil’s Communist Party (PCB), the Revolta dos 18 do Forte de Copacabana (Revolt of the Copacabana Fort), and São Paulo’s Semana de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Week). Through the Manifesto Antropofágico (Cannibal Manifesto), the Semana de Arte Moderna outlined the beginning of Modernism, accruing from a Brazilian characteristic ambivalence between backwardness and progress, cosmopolitan ambitions and peripheral condition, in which cannibalism — inspired by Tupi rituals of rival domination — becomes a way for Brazil to assert itself against European postcolonial cultural determination.

More recently, Morro do Castelo’s symbolic extinction has sparked intellectual debate due to a renovated urban interest in its former location and adjacent port area in preparation to the Olympic Games of 2016, as well as recent archeological discoveries of the largest slave cemetery (“Cemitério dos Pretos Novos” or “Cemetery of New Blacks”) in Latin America. Since 2009, the area has been the focus of the “Porto Maravilha” (Marvelous Port) urban renovation project, in which Santiago Calatrava’s most recent landmark, the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) has sparked real estate development and international touristic attention.

More broadly, the urban erasure of Morro do Castelo occupies a vital role in the contingent history of landscape manipulation of Rio’s iconography and in the creation of the “regeneration myth.” In this process, the continuation of a conservative politics of non-inclusion by a postcolonial State assumes a role of domination and control, which makes sure that demands from the most recent social sectors of the city: urban workers, especially in the face of increasing urban migration and emancipated former slaves. In that sense, urban renovations represent new forms of colonial control, however, adapting its condition to newly found demands of infrastructure to the same oligarchic sector of the population.

This paper aims to challenge postcolonial urban assumptions centered in dichotomies of progress and underdevelopment by looking at the erasure process of Morro do Castelo as the embodiment of modernist, national, and social cleansing narratives of development, while underlining the role of human agency and combative forms of housing activism. Moreover, through the investigation of the first historical account of Rio’s favela, I hope to shed light into this typology of insurgency that has continuously persisted and might most efficiently epitomize de Andrade’s anthropophagy practice.
(b) Postcolonial urban epistemologies and other ways of ‘making space public’

Nizaiá Cassián-Yde

During the last decade in Guadalajara (México), private and public actors have sought to implement different urban regeneration projects, based on the creative and culture industries and the revalorisation of public space, as strategies of international projection in the context of interurban competition (Harvey, 2009). Simultaneously, a heterogeneous field of actors has emerged (business associations, architects’, urbanists’ and cyclists’ collectives) claiming for a new city project based on the redensification of the city centre, the revitalisation of public spaces, and the defence of cyclists’ mobility. This presentation aims to analyse the role that expert knowledge and white middle class “right to the city” collectives have played in the problematic constitution of a highly eurocentric and hygienist (neocolonial) conception of public space present in these projects.

Based on ethnographic field work, we will analyse how this claim for public space has taken center stage in the voice of civil society organizations in which forms of expert and lay knowledge meet, coming from architecture, urbanism and design; together with activist, artistic and cyclists’ initiatives. Some of these collectives have shown an increasing interest in the implementation of participatory processes at the level of urban intervention. And some of them, especially those with specific technical skills, have come to take an important role, acting as validated mediators between citizens and the administration. Informed by feminist epistemologies (Haraway, 2004; Harding, 1998), foucauldian (2006) and postcolonial critical analysis on the power relations involved in the hegemony of expert knowledge (Escobar, 2003; Mignolo, 2000), our interest is to highlight the role that these practices of knowledge production have had, in the sedimentation of ‘relevant objects’ and ‘legitimate spaces’ of the political in Guadalajara. They cannot be considered as an alternative field to the power relations in which urban governance is enacted, but play a key role in the constitution of public space and the city as objects of reflection, practical action and political dispute. These initiatives have claimed to put forward a progressive model of public space remodernisation where citizen rights of participation, culture and right to leisure will be exercised. Although conceived in the will of a broad project of urban democratisation, we will suggest that they do also crystallise a normative model of public space – built for the “neutral” body of the citizen (white, male, autonomous and capacitist) – and that apparent “material neutrality“ has overpassed issues related to gender, class, race and diversity (Hayden, 1980; Vainer, 2014).

The aim is to put forward that broader and more inclusive ways of ‘making space public’ taking place in Guadalajara, that could enrich and decolonise our imaginaries regarding public space, have actually been dismissed, criminalised or overlooked by current public policy for being considered illegal, stigmatised or simply invisibilized for their ephemeral and temporary character. Beyond this normative conception, different kinds of public spaces are constantly embodied in the city through practices of informality, particularly in the practices of ephemeral space appropriation by the so called “informal economies” (Gago, 2015). This practices of self organisation and dispute in relation to the materialities of informality and infrastructure, embody alternative economies and modes of production, reproduction (Federici, 2004) and commoning (Gutiérrez Aguilar, 2017) of and in public space, and put into play alternative urban epistemologies that contest other ways of making spaces public.
(c) From Favelados to Homeowners: Social Housing Policies in Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara 1960-1970

Carlos E. Flores Terán

Between 1960 and 1970, over 5,000 families were removed from the favelas Morro do Pasmado and the shantytown of Botafogo and relocated in the newly constructed social housing projects of Vila Kennedy and Cidade de Deus in the state of Guanabara, Brazil. This paper aims at discentering social housing plans from the lens of the welfare state and situate them in realm of spatial exploration. This paper argues that these social housing plans can be read as efforts to produce subjectivities, that of the “homeowner”, enable certain forms of social order, as well of expressions of how modernity was imagined by Brazilian architects and urban planners. Moreover, by showing the violence and discipline which sustained the implementation of housing policies in Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro and the representations of favelados in the public discourse, it becomes possible to illustrate the legacies of colonialism and racialized exclusion inscribed in spatial planning.



Panel 6 – Infrastructure and Circulation (Day 2, April 6, 14:30-16.00)

(a)Urban social movements and the rural-urban linkages of the real state boom of Mexico City, 2014-2016

Adrián Flores

GeoComunes is a collective that carries out research and collaborative mapping for the defence of common goods, understood as all those elements that are integrated in the process of social reproduction and that are the material support of freedom and all possible life in community. Our cartographic perspective has two axes of development. The first, starts from the idea that in order to defend the common goods it is necessary to investigate and map the territoriality of the capital that seeks to appropriate them. We are interested in showing the connections between the expansion of mega-infrastructure projects and the transformation of common goods into commodified goods. That is to say, in making visible the territorial logic of capital: the connections between the expansion of transport infrastructure projects (such as highways, ports and airports) and those of energy infrastructure (gas pipelines, oil pipelines, hydroelectric dams and others) -mining and manufacturing in Mexico. The second axis, is based on the idea that collectively mapping the common goods (forests, water wells, rivers, etc.), strengthens their defence and community management. Hence, it is necessary to investigate, systematize and share information about the territory that we defend.

We believe in the strength of collaborative work, therefore our methodology is based on research, field work journeys, workshops and mapping exercises, which are performed along with urban and rural communities that face some kind of socio-environmental conflict. They consider that Mapping collaboratively can be a tool in the dispute for the defence of their territory. GeoComunes and the organized community have designed a cooperation route for the realization of cartographic tools, developing a collective analysis around the affected regions. This work began in 2014 accompanying socio-environmental conflicts of the Metropolitan Zone of Mexico City, and making a national synthesis of various infrastructure projects that help to contextualize such conflicts. On the urban item, and as part of GeoComunes collective, for the last five months I have conducted a cartographic research that mapped the 2014-2016 real estate boom in Mexico City Megalopolis; this work implies the georeferencing of 5,444 buildings from 650 real estate companies that help to understand the big urban project that will be carried out for the next 20 years in Mexico’s Valley.

Through other cartographic layers, that I have collected and constructed, many social urban organizations were able to identify the so called “savage urbanization” process, such as the metropolitan highway transport network, the urban industrial corridors, the General Plan for Urban Development, and even layers that show the spatial dimension of the last earthquake on 19th September 2017. For this international workshop the aim is to present the complexity and diversity of these urban social movements against the urbanization process and his linkages with the spatial transformation process that occur in the rural spaces with a series of maps that explain the process in both, territorial and historical terms.

Place and Play in Contemporary Brazil and China

(b) Elena Kilina

This research builds on the conversation about the relationship between space and people, with the focus on the anthropology of space and the introduction of state of play (engagement) which in the framework of BRICS, as described in the case studies of Brazil (Sao Paulo Minhocão) and China (Shanghai Redtown).

The issues of place, belonging, and citizenship have been highly debated in the intellectual agenda since the early 1990s (Friedmann, 2007), yet most of these studies take “the West” as their focus point. The modern colonial geographies (Scott, 2008) viewpoint may urge us to rethink these notions with the emergence of alternative functions of some spaces, and the re-imagination of urban space by what it may be named global modernity. At the local, regional, national and global context, space is not an empty element, but is complicated mixture of social and public relations and meanings. Modern urban situations are full of spatial dilemmas and variety of leisure choices. These urban situations are facing the impact of the ever-increasing aging society with the inequality of income and wealth, as well as the evolution of the multicultural.

In 1969, Minhocao was the largest project of reinforced concrete in all Latin America. The phenomenon of this specific urban space covers maintenance as an highway and park, with polarization between the groups of activists who in the first instance, believe in the re-signification and reuse of Minhocão as an exclusive area for pedestrians, and secondly, those that support demolition and believes that the best solution for “all” would be the return to an idealized city of the past.

Redtown, as the contra-case, remains of the old Shanghai No. 10 Steel factory in Hongqiao area with the Sculpture exhibition hall and a collection of cafes, art studios and offices related to design and art. Pitched as a “creative zone,” it  become popular with families and weekenders who come to picnic among the freestanding sculptures in the grassy central areas (Redtown, Ten years, p.55). The life span of this space was from 2005 until July 2017. It can be considered as an example of leisure space within a frame of commercial art and designed public space, surrounded by private buildings, where so –called “free play” demonstrates the utility of this type of space by visitors and locals. What unintended uses did Redtown have?  A geographic landmark, a portal from one street to another, a place to walk dogs, a party site for community members? Did Chinese real estate companies use the “gallery” spaces for storing stationary?

The intend contrast between the Sao Paulo site and Shanghai Redtown was to identify some key factors regarding why one space “works” for play and one does not. Redtown can be defined as “The Still-Birth of an Incubator”, and as such provides a means for investigating the reasons as to why it does not work as a planned arts hub, including the reasons it never worked as a site of play. Minhocão in contrast is an urban phenomenon that can be considered in the context of the public space of São Paulo, and as an urban construction without the involvement of residents in the surrounding areas. As such, the urban planning has given a result of a temporary transformation from the highway into the interactive that includes a recreational space for thousands of paulistanas, who regard this place as informal and spontaneous.


(c) Spaces of capital and processes of transformation: BR-163, the ‘soybean corridor’

Maria Eugenia Giraudo

In June 2017, the London-based think tank Chatham House published a report titled ‘Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in the Global Food Trade’. This report pointed at the increasing risk of disruption in key ports or maritime passages for the global supply of food. Transportation, and the physical infrastructure that facilitates it, constitutes a key component in the realisation of the global capital market, through what Marx called the ‘annihilation of space by time’. In South America, increasing development in transport infrastructure is linked to the historical role of the region as provider of primary commodities, a role that has been enhanced in the context of what Maristella Svampa calls the ‘Commodities Consensus’. The agglomeration of investment for transport infrastructure in the Southern Cone is only possible through the integration of social scales, for example, local and regional farming is transformed into national export performance and finally realised upon the global market. Paradoxically, such scalar integration, expressed as the mobility of commodities and capital flows, is entirely dependent on the creation of fixed infrastructures in specific territories.

A relevant example of this has been the project for paving and opening a highway, the BR-163, that connects the South-West – a farming area, mainly dedicated to soybean production – and North of Brazil, to the core of the Amazon forest. The BR-163, initially planned during the 1970s, has been revamped as a response to soybean producers’ demands for better access to ports. The saturation of ports in the south of Brazil, and the construction of a Cargill grain terminal in Santarem, on the shores of the Amazon river, served as further support for the construction of this ‘soybean highway’. This project constitutes part of the infrastructure of the Metropolis, as conceptualised by Gaston Gordillo: a ‘conduit’ connecting goods, capital and actors across national borders in a process of ‘global urbanisation’. The pavement and functioning of this road will inevitably bring transformations, not only on the speed and cost of the circulation of soybean and other commodities, but to the environment surrounding its construction. Deforestation, displacement of subsistence farmers, and expansion of the agricultural frontier are some of the indelible marks that the project will leave on the environmental, social and economic landscape of the Brazilian Amazon.

Through an analysis of the BR-163, this paper will explore the strategies through which state and private sector actors have attempted to maximise the profits of the soybean complex in South America by creating fixed structures to facilitate mobility. The aim is to demonstrate two important points: first, the centrality of these fixed structures in the production of wealth, as a necessary condition – along with capital mobility – for the creation of profit; and secondly, that this need for fixity, for economic activity to be grounded in particular territories, in turn creates new spaces, gives rise to processes of rescaling, and contributes to what Neil Smith termed the seesaw movement of capital (2010), and the consolidation of the Metropolis (Gordillo, 2017).


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