Creative Districts and Urban Displacement in the Global South II: Development Narratives, State Violence and (Im)Mobilities

Type: Paper
Theme: Geographies of Human Rights: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Amy Ritterbusch
Chairs: Sergio Montero


In this panel we seek scholars interested in conceptualizing how the move toward creativity, innovation and the arts as a local economic development strategy is remaking cities of the global South through practices of state violence and urban displacement.

Mayors, urban planners and global think tanks around the world are increasingly establishing new special districts to promote creativity and innovation using a variety of economic development narratives and urban “best practices” to justify them. These strategies, however, are resulting in processes of urban reordering and displacement where certain bodies (young creative artists, white upper-middle class professionals, global tourists) are privileged while others (homeless people, sex workers, and drug users) are put out of sight. In many cities of the global South, this urban remaking is taking place through violent interventions, forceful evictions and human rights violations in which the state, be it through urban planning or judicial action, plays a prominent role.

Several scholars in the Global South have used the concept of “gentrification” to analyze how this urban reordering and displacement is connected with real estate interests and global financial flows (López-Morales 2016). While we welcome these contributions, in this panel we are particularly interested in understanding the role of the state, urban politics and urban planning in processes of gentrification and urban displacement. The state is not a passive ally of global financial forces but a central player and initiator of many processes of gentrification, violent displacement, disappearance and eviction taking place in cities across the global South. In this panel, we want to explore and experiment with different ways of conceptualizing the complex assemblages of economic development narratives, state violence practices and urban displacement involved in the making of creative districts in the Global South.

To conceptualize the politics of urban displacement in cities of the Global South, we seek inspiration in postcolonial critiques of gentrification studies (Ghertner 2014, Roy 2011) as well as in relational and mobilities approaches to urban politics (McCann & Ward 2010, Cresswell 2010). For example, rather than gentrification, the literature on urban displacement processes in South Asian cities has focused on the emergence of judicial decisions to demolish slums (Bhan 2009) and world-class city aesthetics as a new logic of urban governance (Ghertner 2014). In Latin America, scholars have connected the remaking of urban areas with increasing concerns about security and environmental risks (Zeiderman 2016) as well as with the effects of the War on Drugs and illegal drug trafficking (O’Neill 2016). They have also shown that Latin American gentrification and touristification processes cannot be understood without the decisive role of the state (Janoschka & Sequera 2016). In Africa, Hoogendoorn and Gregory (2016) have explored the racial displacement effect of Instagram and InstaMeets in Johanneburg’s creative district Maboneng.

Our call to think from the Global South does not imply thinking of urban politics and policy as happening in a particular “contained” place –cities of the global South- but rather looking at how politics and policymaking in these cities is relationally constituted and connected to local and transnational actors, networks and agendas. Recent work on policy mobilities can help conceptualize urban politics as a relational-territorial field (McCann & Ward 2010) and demonstrates how urban policy decisions in cities of the global South are connected to Northern circuits of development funding and technical expertise (Montero 2017). A mobilities approach to urban displacement implies not only accounting for how certain bodies can move or not throughout the city but also to the classed, racialized and gendered practices that facilitate or prevent that movement (Schapendonk & Steel 2014, Ritterbusch 2016). Critical mobility scholars have recently called for the grounding of discussions of mobility justice in social justice literatures (Cook & Butz 2015, forthcoming) and for thinking through how social justice-oriented participatory action research can support those who have been violently uprooted by the remaking of cities throughout the global South (Ritterbusch forthcoming).

In addition to theoretical discussions, we are interested in empirical and methodological studies that can illuminate the different urban governance arrangements, legal and illegal practices, and local and transnational actors and narratives that are promoting—or resisting—contemporary processes of urban displacement in the name of creativity, innovation or the arts. This may include cases of creativity policies and urban governance arrangements that have promoted inclusion and more equitable outcomes (Kanai & Ortega-Alcázar 2009) and examples of new methodologies to measure urban displacement, either through experimental inter-city comparisons (McFarlane & Robinson 2012) or new uses and analysis of urban data (Zuk & Chapple 2016). Finally, we also welcome scholars to join us in thinking through the role of critical scholarship to generate visibility and accountability mechanisms for those disappeared by state violence or other actors implicated in smoothing over spaces for creative district readiness.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Debapriya Chakrabarti*, University of Manchester, Kolkata’s Durga puja: changing places, practices, governance and gentrification 17 9:55 AM
Presenter David Navarrete*, Universidad De Guanajuato, Lifestyle Migration and Cultural Tourism as Urban Development Policy in Mexico’s World Heritage Sites. Displacement and gentrification in San Miguel de Allende. 17 10:12 AM
Presenter Fernanda Jahn Verri*, UCLA, Legalized Displacement: Analyzing Eviction Apparatuses in Brazil 17 10:29 AM
Presenter Amy Ritterbusch*, UCLA, El Cilencio Que Quiere a Gritos Decir la Verdad, Escuela de Salud San Pedro Claver , ‘Rewriting’ and ‘Rerighting’ El Bronx in Bogotá: PAR-driven Narrative Excavation Against the Erasures of Urban Displacement 17 10:46 AM
Presenter Christian Eichenmüller*, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Institut für Geographie, Carla Maria Kayanan, University of Michigan, Urban and Regional Planning, The occupation of Apollo House in Dublin: A case of “occupancy urbanism” in the post-colonial Global North? 17 11:03 AM
Discussant Diana Ojeda Universidad Javeriana 15 11:20 AM

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