Women's use of public space and sense of place in the Raval (Barcelona)

Anna Ortiz, Maria Dolors Garcia-Ramon & Maria Prats

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Ortiz, A. , Garcia-Ramon, M. D. & Prats, M. (1). Women?s use of public space and sense of place in the Raval (Barcelona). GeoJournal, 61(3), 219–227. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10708-004-3539-0

Barcelona , public space , Raval , sense of place , women

This article deals with women's use of public space and sense of place in El Raval, a neighbourhood located in the historical center of Barcelona. Attention will be paid to discover to what degree the existence of a quality public space fosters the creation of socially meaningful places, thus contributing to the construction of women's sense of place and urban identities. A qualitative approach, based on direct observation and in-depth interviews with women living in the neighbourhood, has allowed us to capture the main aspects of the building of a sense of place and belonging, that is the use of public space and facilities, the attitude towards living in the neighbourhood, etc.

Main finding
The Rambla del Raval, a large new central boulevard, is one of the most frequented places in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, and has a large presence of men, in particular immigrant men. Three categories of women interviewed felt different ways about sense of place and belonging to the Raval. ‘Local’ women feel less and less identified with the neighborhood due to the influx of immigrant families and other events that contribute to the socio-cultural change experienced over the last few years. Immigrant women like the district because they feel more at home due to the presence of other immigrants and the multitude of ethnic shops. These women feel recognized and reflected in these differences and feel more comfortable in a diverse area rather than in other areas where the population is endemic to Barcelona. New arrivals have not had much time to develop a sense of belonging, however, they still feel positively about the place. The Rambla del Raval was hailed as the creation of a ‘showcase of a new city with global ambitions.’ The researchers’ field work suggests that even though this goal has been accomplished, many of the resident population’s expectations and needs, especially women’s, have not been fulfilled. The challenge is in creating compatibility between the city’s desire to project a world image and the aspirations of local residents.

Description of method used in the article
The qualitative analysis is based on in-depth interviews with women and direct observation of the Rambla del Raval in Barcelona, Spain. The observations were conducted during June 2002 during a four day period that included two workdays and two weekend days. The researchers mapped the use of the Rambla del Raval according to age and sex groups. Eighteen women from the same neighborhood and different age groups were interviewed in-depth. The sample was selected with the intent to collect differing opinions from women with different educational, work, and family situations. The women were contacted through snowball sampling and the assistance of people belonging to local associations and groups.

Of practical use

Organising categories