Side by side but not eye to eye: urban quality of life in spatially segregated areas of Bogota

Bucheli, Juan Fernando (2016). 'Side by side but not eye to eye: urban quality of life in spatially segregated areas of Bogota' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Inclusion and Exclusion, Children and Youth, Diversity

The rapid and ongoing process of urbanization in Latin America has brought about significant socio-spatial segregation between city-dwellers. Urban inequality tends to produce spatial discontinuity in the city, where middle and upper classes self-segregate in places where local amenities are more abundant, whereas poor households are pushed out to the periphery, where they encounter difficulties in accessing public services which are either in short supply or managed by informal providers. The movement of those people to the periphery and other deprived areas of the city is characterised as a non-voluntary decision where exclusion and social integration is undermined as areas of social homogeneity are configured across the urban space.
Urban segregation has been associated as a barrier for disadvantaged communities, especially when it becomes an intensifier of inequalities. Unequal access to services, availability of local employment, urban facilities, opportunities and supportive social relationships are examples of how segregation affects the distribution of quality of life, undermines attempts for social inclusion and, ultimately, creates unjust geographies.
Spatial segregation has evolved toward a greater mix in terms of urban landscape, where the combination of income polarization, and its effect on the urban structure, has consolidated a process of fragmentation within the city –the emergence of “small units of wealth and poverty that are spatially contiguous but socially isolated from one another” (Thibert & Osorio, 2014, p. 1325). This particular urban tendency is a phenomenon which scholars have tended to conceptualize as a process of ‘cellular segregation’ (de Duren, 2006) in the sense that Latin American metropolitan areas have become more mixed at the macro level (at the neighbourhood level) and more segregated at the micro level (at the block and street level) (Borsdorf & Hidalgo, 2010).
Public policy and measurements of quality of life have frequently overlooked spatial contexts of inequalities since a utility-based definition of wellbeing is often taken for granted. Policy makers often frame public policy under macro subjects such us inequality or poverty, leaving aside mechanisms to tackle urban segregation. A potential explanation for this is that policy implementation in cities has been skewed towards the application of space-blind strategies which ignore urban dynamics highly contingent on context (Barca, McCann, & Rodríguez-Pose, 2012, p. 149). At the same time, the idea of the ‘Right to the City’, which has gained momentum among national governments to develop policies towards more inclusive cities, has developed without an evaluative framework to assess how inequalities, such as urban segregation, affect people’s achievement and realization of urban rights (Deneulin, 2014).
Within this context, this research proposal understands that current characterisations of urban wellbeing do not provide a sufficient theoretical and operational framework to determine what people can achieve (as beings and doings) when they experience a segregated urban life. A more holistic definition of urban quality of life is needed in order to full understand how urban segregation can be mitigated, therefore giving rise to a more just city in Latin America.
With the city of Bogota as a testing ground, this paper will analyse how and to what extent new patterns of urban segregation (cellular segregation) affect the distribution of capabilities and quality of life of young adults. Based on a capabilist place-based approach to wellbeing, this research will attempt to conceptualize urban quality of life, look at how urban segregation (in terms of income and urban conditions) affects urban functionings, and assess to what extent anti-segregation policies are enabling a better quality of life for Bogota’s young adults.

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