Theorizing through Talking and Drawing: Lessons from Ethnographic Fieldwork with Young People in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Authors: Raksha Vasudevan*, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Latin America
Keywords: body mapping, Dominican Republic, youth, young adults, urban planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the ways in which on-the-ground theorizing can start to inform the ways in which social constructs that are historically derived from global north experiences, and defined and utilized in academia may or may not be adequate to understand the lived experiences of global south citizens.  Several authors (Langevang 2008, Butler 2009, Nilan 2011, Ursin 2011, 2012) note that literature on youth studies is predominantly based on ways of understanding youth experience located in the Global North and suggest that these social constructs bear culturally-loaded assumptions that are critical to interrogate in order to develop a more robust understanding of youth and young adult lived experience. For this paper, I draw on ten months of ethnographic fieldwork with ‘young people,’ aged 18-27, to interrogate definitions of ‘youth,’ ‘young adult’ and ‘adult’ in the Caribbean context of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Through an analysis of casual conversations with and body mapping drawings by young people in the informal settlement of La Zurza, as well as interviews with other stakeholders, this paper seeks to (re)define social constructions around age in a socially and culturally relevant context. The paper suggests that understanding these constructions as dynamic leaves open the possibility to draw connections with other, perhaps more relevant concepts, such as oppression, racism or sexism that young people might experience. I use my work with young people as an example of how we might start to begin to decolonize planning and related theories in academia.

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