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Title: Making a place in the city : place-making in urban informal settlements in Mexico
Author: Lombard, Melanie Brigid
ISNI:       0000 0004 2689 4129
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2010
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Observers from a variety of disciplines agree that informal settlements account for the majority of housing in cities of the global South. Urban informal settlements, usually defined by certain criteria such as self-build housing, sub-standard services, and residents' low incomes, are often seen as problematic, due to associations with poverty, irregularity and marginalisation. In particular, despite years of research showing otherwise, policy and academic discourses continue to emphasise a division between the 'formal' and 'informal' city, meaning that informal settlements are often treated as outside 'normal' urban considerations. This thesis argues that the discursive construction of urban informal settlements in this way may contribute to their marginalisation, with material effects for residents, including displacement and eviction. Moving beyond static, binary characterisations of urban informal settlements, it aims to use a place-making approach to explore the discursive, spatial, social, cultural and political construction of place in this context, in order to unsettle some of the assumptions underlying these marginalising discourses. Research was carried out using a qualitative, ethnographic methodology in two case study neighbourhoods in Xalapa, Mexico. Mexico offers fertile ground to explore these issues. Despite an extensive regularisation programme, around 50 per cent of urban dwellers live in colonias populares, neighbourhoods with informal characteristics. The research found that local discourses reveal complex and ambivalent views of colonias populares, which both reproduce and undermine binary categorisations relating to 'informality'. In particular, local policies construct colonias populares in certain ways which may perpetuate their marginalisation, but also reveal the complexities of power relations affecting neighbourhoods within the city. However, it is a focus on residents' own place-making activities that hints at prospects for rethinking urban informal settlements. By capturing these messy, dynamic and contextualised processes that construct urban informal settlements as places, the analytical lens of place-making offers a view of the multiple influences which frame them. Informed by perspectives from critical social geography which seek to unsettle binaries and capture the 'ordinary' nature of cities, this thesis suggests imagining urban informal settlements differently, in order to re-evaluate their potential contribution to the city as a whole.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available