Constructing social infrastructure: infrastructure’s role in inter-generational political learning

Authors: Jennifer Porter*, University of Washington
Topics: Urban Geography, Latin America
Keywords: urban geography, social movements, infrastructure, heritage
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I analyze the political values that emerge through a struggle for social infrastructure, and the ways grassroots-built spaces such as parks, schools, and community centers become heritage sites – physical anchors for memory that are used in contemporary discourses about inequality and justice. This work is empirically rooted in fieldwork conducted in the San José metropolitan area of Costa Rica, in an urban community built through the self-help housing movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s. These movements sought housing justice through slum upgrading and the construction of entirely new neighborhoods. Movement participants fought for state support to build housing, transportation and sanitation infrastructures, as well as public spaces for education and job training (schools and cooperatives), recreation (parks and sports fields), and meeting spaces (churches and community centers). In this talk I will (1) unpack the family histories of participants in the housing movements, as they are tied to spaces like community parks, and mobilized to teach children about conviviality, and (2) trace the ways their now-adult children interpret these stories and spaces as they define the scope of and needs related to contemporary problems of justice in the community. Using an inter-generational – of residents who participated in the housing movements, and their now-adult children – and visual – of images produced by a photovoice method – analysis, I argue that there is a larger politico-cultural significance to these social infrastructures as mundane monuments to ways of being and thinking about justice.

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