Placemaking in a translocal receiving community: The relevance of place to identity and agency

Main, K. & Sandoval, G.F.

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Main, K., & Sandoval, G. F. (2015). Placemaking in a translocal receiving community: The relevance of place to identity and agency. Urban Studies, 52(1), 71-86.

Latino Immigrants , Place Identity , Public Space , Receiving Communities , Translocal Agency

Recent case studies of receiving communities have established that translocal immigrants are transforming their neighbourhoods, producing spaces of identity. While these studies have focused on the reshaping of local power dynamics, less attention has been given to the spaces, themselves, and the qualities that influence identity. This study utilises place identity literature, from environmental psychology, to explore the remaking of MacArthur Park, a public space at the centre of a Mexican and Central American immigrant community in Los Angeles, California. We find that new ‘place identities’ are influenced by the specific physical, social, and cultural elements of the park, as study participants attempt to maintain identities influenced by important places in their sending communities. The result is a park that has emotional significance for participants, significance that leads to agency – everyday and political practices – to protect the park, sometimes in the face of immense challenges.

Main finding
The authors find that a park with emotional significance for its participants can lead to agency, through everyday practices and politics, and civic protections of the park by the users. Elements of the case park reminded participants of their sending communities (Latin American countries) and lent emotional meaning to the park. These elements included: natural elements, fountains, music, murals, other park goers from one's own culture, informal street vending, everyday activities (walking, playing with children, playing soccer), and community events and fiestas (the latter allowed participants to experience traditional and hybrid culture). Agency was in the form of overt political activities and everyday forms of resistance to authority through unsanctioned soccer games and illegal street vending. The vending was seen as economically necessary whereby its illegality was considered a prohibition of community identity.

Description of method used in the article
The research included 38 in-depth interviews, 180 semi-structured/ survey interviews, site observations, and archival research. Behavioral mapping with demographic coding sheets was used.

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