Research Seminar : Neighbourhoods as Arenas of Conflict in the Neoliberal City by Maria-Luisa Mendez

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Date : Tuesday 3rd February

Time : 3-5pm

Location : Goldsmiths College, PSH 314

Dr Mendez will present a paper which will focus on middle class politics in areas that have been recently declared as “heritage neighbourhoods” in Chile.

My argument in this paper is that, although these middle class residential politics involve strong institutional, symbolic, social and spatial boundary work, they do this while also expressing what they consider are more inclusive political views. This case shows how space is produced under times of change. These claims illustrate that it is possible to develop a rhetoric of justification that expresses both awareness of neoliberal residential politics and the desire for relatively exclusive spaces: they are actually not rejecting less privileged people, they are actually confronting a neoliberal urban massacre. Thus, when confronting urban transformation, these residents’ rhetoric on neighborhoods provides critiques to privatization and neoliberalism, by recapturing a pre-neoliberal reforms period and neighborhood sociability. Notwithstanding that, however, inequalities are still embedded in claims to place making and belonging. In this case, inevitably, belonging is a matter of rejecting the “aspiracional”, the emergent, the “neoliberal” new middle classes in Chile. 

Finally, by addressing the relationship of the middle classes to territory and their place in relation to the contemporary city (Butler and Robson, 2003; Bridge, Butler and Lees, 2012; Zukin, 2010; Low, 2003; Savage et al, 2005; Brown-Saracino, 2009), this paper focuses on questions regarding the ways in which we currently understand different middle class neighborhoods in terms of intra and inter class distinctions, and the local politics and practices involved in those distinctions.

María Luisa Méndez is a research fellow in sociology at Universidad Diego Portales and Principal Investigator at the Center for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies, COES. Her research focuses on the study of the middle classes in Latin America from the perspective of urban and cultural sociology, and particularly explores processes of inequality reproduction and social conflict.

For more information contact Dr Michaela Benson.

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