Creative cures for chronic diseases. Medical metaphor and urban displacement in Bogota’s planning

Authors: Juan Galvis*, SUNY-OldWestbury
Topics: Urban Geography, Latin America, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Creativity, Displacement, Bogota
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent calls for innovative urban revitalization have stressed creativity and experimentation as a way to counteract the pitfalls of top-down, technocratic urban planning. Calls for “creative classes” to spearhead urban development, “tactical urbanism,” “urban acupuncture” or even “guerrilla urbanism” have proposed small, temporary, and often cultural interventions to “activate” or revitalize neighborhoods. Proponents of these tactics argue that they work to undo the legacies of modernist planning by creatively infusing life back into derelict or over-planned areas. Critics, in turn, point to the leveraging of this vitality to abet processes of gentrification and sanitization of the street. Both, however, stress the newness of these approaches. Violent, state-led displacement of “undesirables,” however, has been a fixture of urban policy for centuries. In this paper, I use the example of Bogota to historicize some of the exclusionary consequences of current creative tactics as part this long-lasting legacy. To do so, I focus on medical metaphors in urbanism, from early 20th century hygiene through urban acupuncture. The medical metaphor, I argue, serves the depoliticizing role of excising particular people and areas from the body politic, diagnosing them as malignant and justifying their often-violent removal. The paper suggests that despite repeated failures in producing the planned city, a discourse has been perpetuated that justifies the active exclusion of certain populations in the name of protecting the well-being of the “healthy” city. In doing so, it warns against the uncritical embrace of innovative, creativity-based approaches, which continue to rely on such discourses.

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