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Social suffering in the Bairro: Assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation Housing Studies Association.

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Presentation on theme: "Social suffering in the Bairro: Assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation Housing Studies Association."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social suffering in the Bairro: Assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation Housing Studies Association 2011 Conference University of York, April João Queirós Institute of Sociology, University of Porto, Portugal

2 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 A PhD research developed under the scope of a broader research (Slums, public housing and the working classes: a compared portrait of the genesis and structuring of state housing projects in Porto and of its social consequences ( )]. This research is being developed at the Institute of Sociology, University of Porto, Portugal, from late 2007 to date. A research on the relations between the state, class transformations, housing and the «social question», as seen in Porto over the last one hundred and fifty years, but more specifically in the last half century. An ongoing PhD research on the structuring and social consequences of inner city urban and housing policies, as viewed both «from above» and «from below». The research project

3 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Six case studies each one representing a different stage of Porto and Portugal´s contemporary history and of the corresponding main housing policy plus three comprehensive case studies, covering large periods of time and several urban and housing policies and projects. A note on method Following Michael Burawoy (1998: 5), we put forward an approach based on the «extended case method», which «applies reflexive science to ethnography in order to extract the general from the unique, to move from “micro” to “macro”, and to connect the present to the past in anticipation of the future, all by building on existing theory». Research resources: archive material (both from personal and institutional archives); surveys (in 6 cases); interviews (short, in-depth and group); direct observation/photography; etc.. Focusing here on the lived experience of class and urban relegation...

4 Cases under study 1 S. Vítor Street 2 Bairro do Amial 3 Bairro do Bom Sucesso 4 Bairro de Aldoar 5 Bairro da Bouça 6 Bairro de S. Tomé 7 Historic Centre/B. Aleixo 8 Bairro do Viso 9 Bairro de S. João de Deus

5 Barredo Fonte Taurina/Reboleira Barredo View over «Ribeira» (left) and «Escadas do Codeçal» (right) from the nearby Luís I Bridge Photos: João Queirós

6 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Poverty Unskilled, unstable, low-paid jobs Informal economy Overcrowdedness and dreadful housing conditions Strong territorial stigma, compensated by a sense of community belonging State inaction or «urgent», «exception» measures Disbelief and scepticism towards urban and housing projects Porto’s Historic Centre in the late 1960s

7 Interior of a working class house in Porto’s Historic Centre (1960s) Photo: City Council’s Historic Archives

8 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «Bairro do Aleixo» in 2011 Poverty and very large percentage of families with social benefits Underqualification and unemployment Degradation of housing and public space Drug addiction and drug trafficking Strong territorial stigma Withdraw of the social state/Demolition as the «inevitable solution» Sense of abandonment and disbelief

9 «Bairro do Aleixo» project in the mid-1970s (above) and 2010 aspect of «Tower 5» (right) Photos: City Council’s Historic Archives and João Queirós

10 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Putting forward the hypothesis of the transfer, reconstruction and reinforcement of stigma, within the more general hypothesis of the state not only as the reproducer, but as the producer and enforcer of social and urban inequalities, through the legitimisation of territorial stigmatisation and the political relegation of already socially and economically relegated populations (Masclet, 2006; Wacquant, 2008; Bourdieu, 1993; 2000; 2005). What happened in the last thirty-five years? Getting evidence by trying to access the testimonies of the personal impacts of stigmatisation and of inequalities – that are very well exposed every time individuals encounter themselves with their public significance (Bourdieu, 1993; 2000; Charlesworth, 2000; 2005).

11 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «The truth is that there’s here a persistent sense of belonging, an identification with the territory, and when people came [from the Historic Centre], that was understood by some ancient local communities as a kind of invasion, [Aleixo families were] some kind of invaders and the integration was never accomplished (…). (…) There was always this difficulty, and Aleixo was marked and strongly stigmatised since the beginning because of several things, it wasn’t yet problematic and people already announced what it would turn out to be. The people from Lordelo said: “Not here! It’s going to be a problem, there’re people coming from Ribeira to here”. It wasn’t yet a problem and it was already a kind of announced disgrace... the announced disgrace. And, in fact, it actually became what we today see it is... As a matter of fact, its demolition is already planned, as you know» (A., social worker, knows the Bairro since the mid-1980s). The reconstruction of stigma: an inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy?

12 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «We went to find a job, we had to say we were from another place, or else we would be thrown off. We’re used to be discriminated… (…) Because in that time there was already discrimination. (…) Now, if we go out asking for a job, not me, I don’t work anymore, I can’t see, but my children, my grandchildren... If my grandchild... One of these days he went to ask for a job, he had to say he was from somewhere else. If he says he’s from Aleixo... In Aleixo there’s good and bad. In Ribeira there was good and bad» (G., 78 years old, original tenant). A seemingly irrevocable «negative social and symbolic capital» «We hear things already [from residents in the areas to where the City Council says it will move Aleixo’s families after the demolition]. “What? From Aleixo? They’re coming here?! No!”. It’s not like here. We accept everything. (...) I still remember, when we went looking for a job, if we said we were from Ribeira, uff, we wouldn’t get a job. (...) It’s this thing with bad reputation [má fama]. And here it started having bad reputation too (...) when drugs appeared» (J., 72 years old, original tenant).

13 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «[In the mid-1980s], this space already showed some collective depression. (…) When I arrived here in 1986, I conducted a survey to all 320 families and there was this curious thing when we started treating the data. There was this curious thing, well, the survey had lots of questions, and one of them was “What do you think about Bairro do Aleixo?” and other was “What do you think of your neighbour?”. And lots of answers were like this (sorry for the expression): “In the Bairro, there’s only whores, pimps and fags”. (...) When I organised a general meeting to show the tenants the results of the survey, I said: “This answer is very frequent”, and then I asked “If it is so, where are they?”. And this guy goes: “They’re everywhere!”. This was in 1986 [before the drugs]. (...) Each one thought of the other what the other thought of him. This translates the very negative self- image they had, and when it’s like this, these territories are... very vulnerable» (A., social worker, knows the Bairro since the mid-1980s). Spaces of «collective depression»

14 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Enduring poverty and reiterated experiences of subordination De-industrialisation and unemployment Casualisation of (underqualified) youngsters The predatory economy of drugs Persistent stigmatisation + Political relegation The decomposition of a working class territory

15 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «So, if law exists!... [If The Mayor] Rui Rio puts law over here, this will be straighten up. But he doesn’t want the law, because we wants to put this down. His law is the money. That’s it. (…) He is a man of no word… Because if he was a respectable man, humanitarian, he would see that there are human people here, there are human people here, people that came here thirty so years ago and that are ready to go to the cemetery tomorrow, but they want to live with dignity in their houses, and not being dispossessed of a thing that was given to them. Since we came from Barredo and were put here close to the cemetery, it would be good if they let us die here. (…) They’ve put us here to go to the cemetery, and now they’re sending us where? One of these days we have family everywhere. One of these days, we have to make a map with the places from where we disappear. Why? With people with no word we never know. Look, I’m ready to go. But I wouldn’t want to leave it here. I’m going from here to the cemetery, me and my family. (J., 72 years old, original tenant). Reinforced feelings of indignity and worthlessness

16 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 «[The Mayor] Rui Rio wants to demolish Aleixo and I won’t have a house anymore. They say they give me a house, but it’s not like that, because I have a document signed by the [City Council’s] Vice-President which says that nothing would be done without the knowledge and orders of residents, but that’s not being done. Now look… (…) I feel sorry for still being that poor little guy, because I’m a person who has no importance at all, worthless, worthless! Worthless… And in a difficult moment I still have to go on [begging]… (…) I mean, you know, it shouldn’t be like this, because I think I have a little bit more of value than the one that’s given to me…» (S., 75 years old). Reinforced feelings of indignity and worthlessness

17 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Retreat into the domestic sphere, lack of participation and state (in)action: a downward spiral ending in a «inevitable solution» «When they go to the City Hall, I’m not going to talk, because I just start crying. He immediately puts me against the wall. “You have to go there”, and what am I going to say? I have my younger son, the one that works in the restaurant, he knows how to talk, he says that [the City Council] is not going to send us to places… you know, and that we’ll be able to choose, but we’ll get there and probably he won’t let us choose anything. (…) It’s like that! He’s creating these things… he abandoned everything and things end up getting all degraded... - And then it justifies... That’s what I was going to say... They degrade things and then say it has to be demolished. But he’s the one who has abandoned this, the complete degradation. It’s due to Rui Rio. That’s the problem» (F., 70 years old., original tenant).

18 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Retreat into the domestic sphere, lack of participation and state (in)action: a downward spiral ending in a «inevitable solution» «It’s not worthy»; «They just don’t care about us»; «It’s every man for himself» Retreat into the domestic sphere Strategies of mutual distancing further undermining local solidarities No participation «They don’t care about their own interests»; «The association? It’s always the same two or three»; «It’s a listless population»; «This can’t go on this way» Abandonment Dismissal of local representatives Further stigmatisation Demolition (eventually)

19 Social suffering in the Bairro: assessing the social consequences of state (in)action and the lived experience of urban relegation João Queirós, 2011 Some final remarks... The «offensive reconstruction of the social state» (Wacquant, 2008) Politics as a «space of recognition» for the working class? … Fighting the effacing of the working class and the urban poor from the public sphere and from social inquiry; fighting the normalisation and naturalisation of particular urban situations, by showing that they are greatly the result of political processes. Resisting the imposition of research agendas by policy makers and city rulers; and focusing on the major role of the state in the (re)production of physical and social divisions in the city.

20 Thank You!


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