Wednesday, February 21, 2007

to each his enclave

trevor sent in these thoughts for your perusal and comment.

"I had something in mind in class the other day that I didn't get around to talking about, so I wanted to post it on the blog to see if anyone had anything to say.

"When we were talking about walling off vs. being walled off - the inside-out vs. outside-in idea - I really liked Jen's analogy to prisons. It almost perfectly sums up the idea behind sequestering a certain social class - like the tenements in [Jacob Riis’ book], or the favelas in the documentary we saw [news from a personal war] - in order to make the public space more comfortable, or secure, or safe. To take the favelas for example, we look at what's going on in the area - dealers are constantly getting into confrontations with the police. Granted that particular city was a little different because of the corruption of the police force, but in places like those favelas or the tenements, people are more desperate to find ways to get by, and often end up getting in trouble. Here's the thing - in most places in the world - where do people go when they get into trouble with the police? They go to prison. It's almost like there are varying degrees of sequestering the people society is uncomfortable with. First they're walled off, in their own part of town... a favela or tenement, for example. Then, if they continue to make the rest of society (for lack of a better term) uncomfortable, they're downgraded to a more secure walled-in area - a prison.

"It also seems to me like Caldeira [in “fortified enclaves: the new urban segregation”] provides an explanation for some of the solidarity we saw in the favelas in the documentary. She says (in the middle of p. 88 for those that are interested) that "the image that confers the highest status and is most seductive is that of an enclosed and isolated community, a secure environment in which one can use various facilities and services and live only among equals." Of course they don't have the same security in the favelas that the homeowners in Sao Paulo do - on the contrary, they're usually trying to fend off the police, which invades their territory regularly. But they all stick together, and by sticking together, they manage to keep others out pretty well. Even the police (think of when the whole group followed the police when they took the young boy in the documentary). What the armed guards are to the walled-in homeowners, the people of the favelas are to each other. They can, like Caldeira says, live only among equals. and that's a symbol of status.

"Status, then, doesn't have to be about economic wealth, or prestige, or luxury. it can be about a feeling of ownership. Inside the favelas, the police technically have authority, but they don't have the status, because they don't feel like they own the area.

"Just some thoughts. If anyone has anything to add or rebut, have at it... "


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