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Barcelona’s Colonia Castells and the “urban renewal syndrome”

29/10/2010 admin 0
-How sad it is... they finally managed to get what they wanted: a dead neighborhood, with no life in it. What will I do? I will die inside that flat. I don't know what to do in that balcony, I just read the newspaper... so I come back here, to see if I find somebody to chat a while, like I always did. We like to be in the streets... (a neighbor of "Colonia Castells") Barcelona is changing. From a "lowercase" city, made of small one-storey houses, to an "Uppercase" city: Big Intensive Buildings, Vertical Standardization, Big Commercial Avenues. In "Colonia Castells", a small "residual" one-storey neighborhood, just below Barcelona's most important commercial areas (the Diagonal avenue), decades of plans and projects managed to convert an ancient working class neighborhood built in the 20s, into a transitional space, constantly waiting for the demolition: an urbanistic and social "death row". The residents of this and others "black holes" embody the precariousness and uncertainty in which they are banished, and begin to present the symptoms of an individual and collective "urban renewal syndrome", that breaks the community bounds and strengthens both individualism and general diffidence. The neighborhood turns into a sad and uncomfortable place to stay, and the same inhabitants who once loved it now forcedly end up wishing to leave it.
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A dialogue through brazilian urban geography

26/10/2010 admin 0
The Grupo de Estudo sobre Sao Paulo GESP – Laboratorio de Geografía Urbana LABUR studies the growth of Sao Paulo metropolis, within the Department of Geography of the University of Sao Paulo (the webpage is very interesting). Some of its members will be in Barcelona on friday october 29th, 2010, and will held a seminary on Problems in brasilian urbanization: new strategies for production of the space. Time: 10:00, Room 505, 2nd floor, Faculty of Geografía y historia. Calle Montalegre 6, Raval, Barcelona. Hablan: Marcela Nascimiento, Fabiana Valdoski Ribeiro, Danilo Volochko. Modera: Rosa Tello.
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The guts of Paris

24/10/2010 admin 0
In Marco Ferreri's movie Touché pas à la femme blanche (1974) the indians are the former residents evicted from the center of Paris, and the cowboys are gunmen of the real estate speculators who try to exterminate them. The canyon is the enormous hole left after the demolition of the Baltard padillions, on september 6th, 1971. Just as the boulevards opened by Haussman in the end of the XIX century was an urbanistic response to the Paris 1870 Commune, the demolitions of the “ventre de Paris” and its transformation into a business and cultural center, in some way is a response to the need of punishing the city after may of 1968. The empty space of Chatelet-Les Halles today highlightens the persistence of the exclusion of young people coming in from the banlieues with the RER train (as in the movie La Haine by M.Kassovitz [1][2]). This had been already written by those who criticized the demolitions in the seventies. The most important of them is the journalist André Fermigier, whose articles are published in La bataille de Paris. De Les Halles à la Pyramide, chroniques d’urbanisme: “Do you want Paris in the year 2000 to become a city in which the young people will have no means to live?” (1971). Or Michel Ragon in Les erreurs monumentales: “Will Paris in the future be a ring of satellite cities around a dead center, converted into an open-air museum, like in Venice?”. Paris City Council is planning a new, enormous, project for the renewal of that part of the center.
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Ethnicity and gender in a murder in the periphery of Rome

21/10/2010 admin 0

On october 15th, 2010, the 32-years-old romanian nurse Maricica Haiaianu, died after being hit by an italian young man in the Anagnina metro station in Rome. About this fact (racism? sexism? the two of them? or a complex system of symbolic interactions?), and about the context that produced it, writes the italian anthropologist Pietro Vereni. This is the translation of his article into spanish; you can read the original version in italian in his blog.

Lo siento, pero la cuestión es justamente étnica y de género. El asesinato por parte de Alessio Bertone de la enfermera Maricica Hahaianu en la estación de metro Anagnina de Roma, ha recibido mucha atención por parte de los periódicos, de la radio, de la televisión y de todos los medios de comunicación. La historia es esencialmente dramática en su banalidad (una nueva versión de la banalidad del mal, podríamos decir) y parecería una de esas trágicas “fatalidades” debida a la anomía de la vida urbana, a un sistema de relaciones sociales totalmente vacío de contactos personales y por lo tanto reducido a puro intercambio económico. Aunque no podamos pasar por encima de estos aspectos, y no hay duda que la vida en las metrópolis se caracteriza por un aumento de violencia aparentemente gratuita, pero creo que en este caso específico tenemos que investigar también su componente “étnica”, que no es absolutamente marginal como parecen suponer muchos periodistas y políticos: que han hablado de un caso de violencia que no hay que explicar absolutamente en términos de racismo o de tensión étnica.
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“Passatge Cusidó: un adèu” (Farewell to Cusidó alley)

11/10/2010 admin 0
…on saturdays we went out, and she and her sister remained with our neighbor, miss Maria, and wouldn't come with us. [...] We would have taken them to the cinema, to Mcdonald’s, but they didn't want! They wanted to stay here in the alley“. This short video documentary by Jordi Secall, Manel Muntaner, Yolanda Bermúdez and Chema Alonso (2004) describes the demolition of the small “Passatge Cusidó”, just on the side of Barcelona's Diagonal. A real estate company, “Espais” (recently under trial for corruption within the Caso Pretoria) took advantage of the forced expropiation of this small alley, executed by Barcelona's City Council within the “22@” urban renewal project for the neighborhood of Poblenou. More info in this research draft written in 2006 by our group-
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Sevilla: neighborhood of San Bernardo in peril

03/10/2010 admin 0

“The neighborhood doesn’t have to be a closed community, nor a museum of past history: it shouldn’t be like this. The neighborhood, in a dynamic city, is driven by a constant process of tranformation, to continuous deconstructions and reconstructions that descends from various factors, for example to the same biology of human life. But the changes not always mean an enrichment. A neighborhood can also die and disappear, tranform into a space that is only residential, an agglomeration of private spaces without place nor common life“. From Manifiesto por San Bernardo, document about the transformation of the neighborhood of San Bernardo in Sevilla, and about the resistence movements who are leading its inhabitants. See also the webpage of the network of neighborhood struggles in Sevilla.…

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“Those who can’t leave”: urban resistance in Seoul

27/09/2010 admin 0

This video describes the struggle of the population of Yongsan neighborhood (Seoul) against the programmed evictions for the “urban renewal project” for the area, promoted since 2008 by the City administration of the Southcorean metropolis. A protest occupation of a building under construction ended up with the death of five activists. “In South Korea, a country infested by excavators, this could happen to any tenant”. [Entire video in archive.org] In November, the G20 will be held in Seoul.

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Anthropology in action

22/09/2010 admin 0

A series of links and articles about how anthropology becomes when it decides to enter into action, i.e. coming out of an (impossible) “pure” observation and getting politically involved into the field it studies. In the seventies, in Italy, they used the expression “ricerca-intervento“, that translated the english “action research”. Many experiences of those times are having a continuity until today, for example the “inchiesta operaia” (worker’s inquiry) autogestionated and driven by activists or by the same people who participate of social conflicts. While the field of “applied anthropology” is being colonized by NGOs and development plans, almost always under control or even financed by the same governments, the social movements are developing some other forms of creation of knowledge. In Barcelona in 2004 a workshop was held (in the Ateneu de Nou Barris) with the title “Investigaccio“, the book Recerca activista i moviments socials (El Viejo Topo, 2005) was a product of this activity; among others, the anthropologist Jeff Juris collaborated with it. In the USA academies now there is a strong debate on what they call “public anthropology” (see the article by Robert Borofsky and the section Public Anthropology Review of American Anthropologist review). Also interesting is the perspective called
collaborative anthropology“, (see the article by Joanne Rappaport) that aims to break with the individual production of knowledge by the ethnographist. But it seems that in recent years this perspective basically dedicated to writing and reading blogs… To go back to our point: two books on anthropology and anarchism,

Istanbul: living in voluntary and involuntary exclusion

19/09/2010 admin 0
During 2005-2010 there have been about 1 million evictions in Istanbul. The residents of gecekondus are evicted to enormous public housing estates in the extreme periphery, where they are hit by intents to "civilize" and normalize the population - almost always Kurdish, Roma, Armenians or low-class Turkish.
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The horizontal city: the neighborhoods of Cases Barates in Barcelona

13/09/2010 admin 0

Our research group began working in 2008 on the Casas Baratas de Bon Pastor, in the north periphery of Barcelona. It's a special neighborhood: more than 600 one-story houses, every one of them painted in a different color, in the middle of factories and industrial zones, on the shore of the Besós river. Built in 1929 in the middle of nowhere, to give housing to the immigrant factory workers (“murcianos y de la FAI”, they called it in those times), now it's an urban space more similar to a village than to a neighborhood of an occidental metropolis. A project of the Barcelona City Council, owner of all the houses, entails the “remodelation” of the whole area, through the demolition of the "casas baratas": the first 145 where demolished in 2007, a few months before we began our research. The inhabitants of the neighborhoods are suffering a series of “social pathologies” that go along the physical demolition of the houses: the social networks (neighbors, relatives...) are suffering the consequences of the urban transformation, and the "humanscape" of the neighborhood is changing maybe even faster than the physical landscape.

“El Bon Pastón”

18/08/2010 admin 0

This short video documentary was made in 2004 by Núria Sánchez Armengol and Luciano Literas, starting from a series of recordings taken in the neighborhood of Bon Pastor in Barcelona. The popular casas baratas, 784 one storey “low-income” houses built in 1929 for immigrant workers, were undergoing the polemic “Urban renewal Plan” that entails the complete demolition of the neighborhood. In this documentary you can listen to neighbors’ voices, some agree, other disagree with the demolitions; while a special highlight is given to the resistance of “Avis del Barri” association: elder inhabitants of the “casas baratas” who struggle against the City Council’s Urban Renewal Plan. The same year, a few km further, the same City Council was building the “Forum 2004” and the residential estate “Diagonal Mar”. The video presents a critical reflection on these processes and on the impact of real estate speculation and urban renewal on Barcelona’s residents who are involved in it.

http://dvactivisme.blip.tv/file/493383/

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From “Plan de la Ribera” to “22@”: the transformation of the shore of Barcelona

14/08/2010 admin 0
"It's just like giving a knife to a 2-years-old child: they don't know what they're doing. That means, that we'll have beautiful buildings, but we have to look where they built them. There were things there, before".Jaume Pagès, former worker of Can Ricart
Between 2005 and 2006 we had been working on the neighborhood of Poblenou, under two different points of view. Historically, we tried to reconstruct the processes of resistance of residents of Poblenou that, in the sixties and seventies, were struck by the ambitious "Plan de la Ribera", with which the francoist mayor Porcioles tried to turn the northern shore of the city in a residential and leisure area. Ethnographically, we studied the contemporary processes through how residents and workers of the neighborhood reacted to the not-less-ambitious "Plan 22@", with which the socialist mayor Joan Clos, between 2000 and 2004, tried to turn the biggest part of Poblenou in a residential and leisure area. The work was too great for our forces, and finally we had to abandon the idea of studying the whole neighborhood of Poblenou (200 hectars). But we made a series of interviews with former activists and inhabitants about the "Plan de la Ribera", and many interviews about a particular case of "22@", the factories of Can Ricart.
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Let’s begin with a poem

14/08/2010 admin 0
This is an excerpt from the last verses of Pierpaolo Pasolini's Le ceneri di Gramsci, written in Rome in 1956. To us, this is the beginning of everything; it still contains almost everything. "A gridare è, straziata da mesi e anni di mattutini sudori - accompagnata dal muto stuolo dei suoi scalpellini, la vecchia scavatrice: ma, insieme, il fresco sterro sconvolto, o, nel breve confine dell'orizzonte novecentesco, tutto il quartiere... È la città, sprofondata in un chiarore di festa, - è il mondo. Piange ciò che ha fine e ricomincia. Ciò che era area erbosa, aperto spiazzo, e si fa cortile, bianco come cera, chiuso in un decoro ch'è rancore; ciò che era quasi una vecchia fiera di freschi intonachi sghembi al sole, e si fa nuovo isolato, brulicante in un ordine ch'è spento dolore. Piange ciò che muta, anche per farsi migliore. "

Des del Ressentiment (Barcelona, 2006)

14/08/2010 admin 0

Short documentary film we realized in 2006 on the factory of Can Ricart (Barcelona), under the effects of the “22@” urban renewal plan. All the industries and organizations that used the XVIIIth century stucture had to leave, as well as most of the inhabitants of the surrounding buildings. …