[URBANTH-L]AAA Search for Panel: Heterotopias Bahianas:
middle-class youth, and the struggle for public space in urban Bahia,
samuel.veissiere at mcgill.ca
Mon Mar 27 12:08:10 EST 2006
I am looking for a panel to present my paper at the 2006 AAA Meeting.
keywords: Urban Brazil; Space and Place; Public Space; ?Street
Children?; Gated Communities; Participatory Ethnography; Critical
Pedagogy; Social Change ?from below?.
Heterotopias Bahianas: Street-children, middle-class youth, and the
struggle for public space in urban Bahia, Brazil.
In their project on the city, the architect Rem Koolhaas and his
graduate students noted that in postindustrial late-capitalist America
where shopping is the only remaining ?public? activity, shopping malls
symbolize the last vestiges of public space. Teresa Caldeira?s
ethnography of violence and urban segregation in São Paulo reminded us
that Brazil?s affluent classes live and experience ?public? life in
similarly?but more aggressively?hyper-controlled air-conditioned
spaces, while the majority of the population struggles for survival in
violently disintegrating ?public? spaces.
Set against the background of unprecedented disparities in the
allocation of space, resources, and services, and the creeping
diffusion of a commercially revitalized racial hegemony that muffles
the gendered and racialized aspects of this politics of exclusion, this
ethnography explores the ways in which public urban space is imagined
and experienced by street-children and middle to upper-class youth in
Veissière investigates the disintegration of public space and the
emergence of new patterns of segregation and experiences of urban space
(eg. gated communities, high-security shopping malls, shantytowns,
crumbling working class neighbourhoods, territorial street life, ritual
pilgrimages to Disneyworld for the affluent, etc) from the point of
view of ?children? situated at opposing extremes of the Brazilian
This study hopes to shed light on asymmetrical experiences of the
city and its new privatized and ?public? spaces by different actors,
and expose the gendering and racialization of these spaces and of the
very practice of domination and exclusion in this postindustrial
By examining and giving voice to radically different experiences of
?childhood? and how they are constructed in different socio-economic
spheres, this study also seeks to move beyond the dominant positivist
view of childhood (Steinberg & Kincheloe, 2004) professed by most
educators, psychologists, NGOs, and policy-makers concerned with ?the
street-children question? (Hecht, 1998), and expose their failure to
take into consideration the emancipatory power of the resilient modes
of livelihoods and survival developed by these youngsters.
In an effort to make the process of ethnographic research
participatory and emancipatory, informants were invited to produce
their own narratives and interpretations of their lived experience of
space through a variety of media. As the project develops, street kids
and middle-class informants/participants will be invited to participate
in critical pedagogy sessions in which they can share their ?findings?
and critically explore the paradoxical co-construction of their
realities. It is hoped that this will enable the more privileged ones
to re-imagine their realities, priorities, and allegiances, while
assisting the street kids in identifying the structures that oppress
them and drawing upon organizing themselves to take action.
Thus, this project is concerned with structural and symbolic aspects
of the human crisis in which the visible presence of ?street children?
is only the tip of the iceberg, and seeks to address some of its
cultural and cosmological foundations by engaging young social actors
from different dimension of these interrelated realities and in
Freirian tradition, to enable them to become critical readers and
re-shapers of their worlds.
Joint PhD Program in International Development Education and Anthropology
Vice President (Multicultural Affairs), Education Graduate Students Society
Room 533 Education Building
Tel: +1 (514) 398-5699
Fax: +1 (514) 398-4529
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