UPD cluster Research Student Mara Nogueira-Teixeira recently won the ‘Best Paper at the PhD Level’ in the Latin America Specialty Group’s competition at the AAG annual meeting in Boston, April 2017. Mara’s paper is entitled: ‘Conserving the (segregated) city: the role of the middle-classes in shaping urban space, the case of Belo Horizonte/Brazil’
Since re-democratization, Brazil has experienced a slow but continuous process of urban reform, with the introduction of legal and institutional developments that favour participatory democracy in urban policy. Legal innovations such as the City Statute have been celebrated for expanding the “right to the city” to marginalised populations. While most studies examine the struggles of the urban poor, I focus on middle-class citizens, showing how such legal developments have unevenly affected the ways in which different social groups are able to impact the production of urban space. The two cases explored in this study concern residents struggles to conserve their middle-class neighbourhoods against change triggered by projects related to the hosting of the 2014 World Cup in Belo Horizonte/Brazil. The first looks at the Musas Street residents’ fight against the construction of a luxury hotel in their neighbourhood, while the second examines the Pampulha residents’ struggle against the invasion of their streets by football fans and informal street vendors. My findings show that through the articulation of legal discourses, middle class claims on the need of protecting the environment and the city’s cultural heritage are legitimized by the actions of the selectively porous state. The findings further suggest that socio-spatial segregation and inequality are not regarded solely as the product of state-capital alliances for engendering capital accumulation through spatial restructuring, but also as the result of the uneven capacities of those living in the city to access the state resources and legitimize certain forms of inhabitance of urban space.
Key words: urban informality; middle-classes; socio-spatial segregation; urban law