Recuperando la tierra: the framing of expertise for community activism in a marginalized urban community in Costa Rica

Authors: Jennifer Porter*, University of Washington
Topics: Urban Geography, Latin America
Keywords: feminist care ethics, Latin American, urban geography, social movements
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In June 2017, the Costa Rican State inaugurated the Centro Cívico por La Paz, a plaza and three buildings, in Guararí, Costa Rica for the prevention of violence and the promotion of social inclusion. Guararí is a marginalized urban community whose origins trace to self-help housing movements in the 1980s and 90s. These movements sought to empower women and families through the construction of houses, to combat both poverty and domestic violence. This paper uses planning documents, news articles, and data collected during 6 months of fieldwork in 2016, to reflect on the differing narratives of violence prevention and expertise located in state-led and local-led spaces. Interviews with residents revealed both optimism and hesitancy regarding the new civic center, that mirror the democratic call for ‘caring with’- who would determine the curricula, programming, and available resources? Who would lead workshops or have access to these spaces as ‘professionals’ and ‘experts’? And who would be able to access the services? This response is informed by a longer history of conflicts with State for living spaces, resources and infrastructure, as well as changing understandings of how violence happens in the community which recognizes the need for spaces that target young people to intervene in the cycle of violence. Ultimately this paper explores the meanings of a space that seeks to ‘cares for’ the problems of poverty and violence in a marginal community, and the possibilities of a ‘caring with’ that would include the voices of residents to challenge oppressive definitions of ‘expertise.’

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