Remaking equality: Community governance and the politics of exclusion in Bogota’s public spaces

Galvis, J. P.

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Galvis, J. P. (2014). Remaking equality: Community governance and the politics of exclusion in Bogota’s public spaces. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(4), 1458–1475.

Bogota , Depoliticization , Equality , Homeless , Policy , Public Space , Street Vendors

Bogota’s public space policy is often credited with promoting inclusionary principles. In this article, I explore critically the content of Bogota’s articulation of equality in public space policy. In so doing, I present a critical view of the work Bogota’s insistence on equality does to mediate class relations in the city, relying on deeply held conceptions of both social extremes. This results in the construction of a version of social harmony in public space that at once depoliticizes the claims to public space of subjects such as street vendors and the homeless and claims a new role for the middle class in the city. The analysis focuses on two examples of community governance schemes, documenting the logics and methods used by communities to implement official visions of equality and justify the exclusion of street vendors and homeless people from the area. By looking at the articulation of these exclusions in local class politics through seemingly inclusionary rhetoric, the article accounts for ‘post-revanchist’ turns in contemporary urban policy, while anchoring its production in local processes of community governance.

Main finding
The author finds class differences ignored and social extremes excluded through policy practices that idealized the social harmony of public spaces. These exclusionary practices were carried out by community governance mechanisms that actually excluded marginalized groups, like street vendors and the homeless, under the guise of community participation to preserve the spaces for the average classless citizenry. The inclusion discourse in the city’s Public Space Master Plan actually depoliticizes issues facing marginalized peoples who live in or off of public space.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted a critical analysis of the type of equality put forth in Bogota's Public Space Master Plan through two of it's local governance schemes: the San Diego International Center Civic Corporation and the Friends of 93rd St. Park Association - both are community-run spaces. Data were gathered from: interviews with community organization leaders and interview transcripts, policy documents, reports and city council ordinances, mayoral and other high ranking official's statements, and local newspapers.

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