ID Seminar, 31-Jan: Urban Afterlives: Buenos Aires Neighbourhoods in the Wake of Adjustment

Dr Ryan Centner, Assistant Professor of Urban Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at the LSE, will present: Urban afterlives: Buenos Aires neighbourhoods in the wake of adjustment (abstract below) in CON 6th floor lounge, on Wednesday 31 January, from 12:30-2PM. Ryan’s talk is going to be an overview of the research underpinning his Buenos Aires book manuscript. The seminar is part of the ID seminar series organised by the Department of International Development, LSE.

A light lunch will be served. Please bring your own drink.

Urban afterlives: Buenos Aires neighbourhoods in the wake of adjustment
Ryan Centner

Abstract

How do large-scale economic adjustment programmes affect neighbourhood life in the bustling cities of indebted countries? Buenos Aires was at the centre of one such experiment in Argentina that served as a worldwide model from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, applauded by the IMF and other powerful development forces. Although this programme of national reform never intended the city as a target of ‘adjustment’, Buenos Aires became an adjusted city nonetheless – transforming the relationship between economy, society, and state in ways that ushered in urban redevelopment as an unforeseen consequence of ‘adjustment’ in this model case. Within this context, residents of all socio-economic classes were also adjusting to radical changes in everyday city life that reached far beyond economic formulae and forecasts. This presentation illuminates the urban social and spatial repercussions of adjustment by focusing on how this global idea had local impact in Buenos Aires, and how Porteños (the demonym for local residents) of varied backgrounds – from executives to hairdressers – grappled with the shifts happening around them. As an ethnography of the afterlives of economic restructuring in the city, the research moves between an elite waterfront enclave, deindustrialized tracts of poverty, and a kaleidoscopic district where a glittering mall and high-security apartment towers splice squatted blocks of makeshift residences and humble ethnic associations. All three neighbourhoods began the adjustment period in similarly downtrodden conditions, then underwent redevelopment, but along very different paths. The result is an account of place divergence that shows adjustment having heterogeneous, interactive effects with each setting, rather than merely steamrolling everything in its path. Detailed narratives of residents living through transformation (whether excelling, struggling, or getting displaced) show how adjustments to adjustment vary significantly by class and context, yielding a city of new places but also of new tastes, sensibilities, and practices.

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