Blog Entry #2
Control, deprivation, encounters, and the “politics of forgetting” – A first look at enclaving. Written by Anna Mazzolini
2018.05.08 | Middle Class Urbanism
My first blog entry is so shamefully late that I should be able to tell you about 5 months of reasoning about enclaving in a clear, linear way. I have been reading so much about materialisations of new urban geographies characterized by enclaving that I should write a 30 pages essay about that.
The reality is that, for now, I just need to reflect with you about the (very rich) jumble that my mind put together.
As a preamble, I need to tell you that until November I was in the middle of a methodological congestion. Then (among other unblocking factors) I met Ana B. da Costa, and while she was making me spend a crazy amount of money for some food in the most expensive shops along Nyerere, she made up the (reverted) methodological order that I had in mind.
I was really stubborn at comprehending at least a little bit of the “general thing”, before going into the details, and my questions were like: ”How does enclaving materialize the encounter between a new urban geography and a new urban aesthetic, also through specific planning actions, leading to a new, middle class urban layout?”; What is the relationship between privilege, security, social structure and present architecture in Maputo?” And “How it is materialized both in individual houses and collective gated settlements?”; “How are hierarchies and privileges related to an emerging middle class physically represented through local architecture details and new walls?” And so on…
Ana rightly expressed her concern when I exposed these questions and also our collective project questions, because we know absolutely zero about who is middle class in the city; not just because we don´t use parameters: most of all because in ALL the meetings, chats and interviews Flora and I had with informants, FAPF, elites, not-elites, etc, this concept of ´class´ was so much contested and considered 100% relative that we had to give up even mentioning the word. That was also Ana´s key suggestion: “don´t even think about that, just observe houses, fences, try to see if the houses you are interested in are representative of ´someone new´, and in what proportions. All the questions you mentioned, maybe, at the very end…you will have a 1% of responses for them”.
That was the beginning of a process of mental “reordering”, through which I avoided finding relationships between what I was observing and the concept of class the ongoing debate is constantly bombing us with.
Being finally more absorbed by details, I joined the info I had and I set the 5 main topics mentioned at the conference: (i) The ontology of the wall, (ii) The physicality of housing (imitation, entitlements, materials, construction processes), (iii) The architectural imaginary (global influences and references), (iv) Aspirations in transition (the “planta humanizada” topic), (v) the routes of enclaving (a study about the archetype of the wall, and its evolution).
This first blog entry will be about the link between what I observed (these 5 themes) and the theoretical framework that I have being building during this first year of research.
In particular, I will focus on the pure concept of enclaving, while more specific reflections about architecture will come later on.
After the last month of field (February) during which, due to the conference, I had few time to collect more data and interviews, I started reading (again!) articles much more specific/pertinent to these 5 themes. Through them, I had to become a little bit anthropological again, before diving into architecture and decide what kind of graphic result I would need to achieve at the end.
Atkinson, Caldeira, Wissink, Atkinson and Flint, Ghertner, Shuermans, Klaufus, Obeng-Odoom and so many others helped me focusing on the key concepts that I will use in my next 2 months of field research (August and September), restricting the edge of my analysis. Moreover, they made me reflect about enclaving from another angle.
Among all the articles, I can mention few concepts that called my attention and that I found represented on the ground in my study areas, most of all in the funny theatre that Vila Sol is becoming now (at my eyes).
I realized how much, in Maputo, enclaving has to do with many “micro politics of forgetting” put in place at the top level (by planning authorities) and at the ground level (by the residents themselves). As Shuermans and Spotner (2016) and Ghertner (2012) observed, the desire to live in gated environments or in certain zones determines a new urban aesthetic which target a politics of forgetting. In the cases that I observed it means both forgetting the mass outside (the urban poor) but also the neighbours, thus using the city just through “little bubbles” and making the routes between one bubble to another not significant anymore (this reminds me of our logo indeed!).
In two construction sites that I am monitoring (Malhampsene and Mozal), the houses that are in construction (EGIPREL LDA) will have the garage built in a way that the person exit the car and immediately enter in the kitchen (thus being hidden during this displacement), avoiding even the contact with other familiars in the garden or with neighbours. These construction choices, according to the four focus groups I had with architects, are more and more visible and appealing to a wealthier segment of the society constructing a “dream house” or a “casa de reforma”.
Shuermans, about Cape Town, also proved how the willing of circumventing or limiting encounters plays a crucial role in present city development and that this circumvention is not a consequence but rather a driverof enclave urbanism.
Similarly, O´Neill and Fogarty-Valenzuela (2013) examines how “to put physical distance creates not just a social distance but also different cultural dispositions towards urban way of life”. In this sense, I found a certain correspondence with the sensations of privilege, limited encounters and obsession with privacy displayed by Mascaro´s documentary “High rise” (2009) that I watched for the second time.
While in Maputo last year, I was stuck studying the enclaving in a very narrowed way, examining people´s need for a private, cocooned, fragmented lifestyle in the city or in condominios. I was finding difficulties understanding an “enclaving beyond expectations”, then I reminded about some pieces of High Rise. In the documentary, privileges comparable to a desert island lifestyle are defined by the interviewees as “the dream of everybody” (o sonho de todos); in the same way, in Maputo, certain architecture/construction details and the “double enclaving” we saw in Vila Sol, seem to be a collective “dream”. A dream that has to do with forgetting the outside for complete.
In reality, the comparison is not so strong, considering that in the documentary, letting out the rest (the poor, the chaos) makes what happens outside a kind of theatre/spectacle to enjoy from a reasonable distance, and the poverty seems more “acceptable”, gaining a folkloristic aspect.
In contrast, we know that in Maputo the differences are still not that heavy and the life of everybody seems of course much more interlinked.
Nevertheless, I have to agree with the fact that, in Maputo as well, the narrative of the majority changes when few live in such closed environments. Just as Klaufus et al (2017) said, the new “hierarchies of privileges have created and quite removed narratives about everyday life in unequal cities”.
In this sense, the barracas´ noise, the voices, are increasingly a matter of concern for certain Maputo residents, stating that they neednot to hear what happens outside in order to have a quality life. The quality of the house, the security, the privacy, are thus not enough to feel cocooned. There has to be a factor of temporary forgetting the “real” environment one lives in.
If we probably see this as unmoral, just as Forjaz exacerbated in a long interview about the global, insensitive and unmoral architecture and planning trends, none of my “smartest” interviewees mentioned that limiting encounters or isolating ALL noises from the outside could mean to promote a less “fair” city.
The fact that in Vila Sol or condominioTriunfo “it is now possible for social factions to exercise unprecedent control over their experience of the city in terms of whom, how and when social encounters are made” (Atkinson and Flint, 2004) is rather seen as a positive privilege.
In Vila Sol, after all, the walls allow each one to be “the best version of oneself”
I finally figured out that what I had seen in terms of enclaving was no solely determined by aspirations for the binary security-privacy but to a great extent by the willingness of limiting the social sphere (encounters, interactions, dialogues, debates); if this willingness could somehow appear as part of aspiration for privacy, I DO think that it has to be considered as a different and unique driver.
For many of my interviewees, “the lack of intense social life signifies an absence of intrusive social control” and this is seen as extremely positive. In Vila Sol, the fact that many interviewees don´t even know their neighbours anymore is somehow a reason of pride, an expression of privilege, and not a factor threatening or weakening their structures of sociability.
Of course, as mentioned before, this kind of lifestyle is also fostered by a certain planning attitude at the Municipal and Central Government level through gated housing developments put in place by public-private partnerships, and this link could be an interesting factor that Morten and Nikolai could explore more and tell me about. I have just observed the phenomenon from the Government side and through a (UN) policy attitude.
What I feel at this point of the research is that planning plays a more than crucial role as driver of enclave urbanism: if it is evident that condominios“have grown because of an ´elective affinity´ between local taste and international, global influences” (Obeng-Odoom et al 2013) , in Maputo it is the presence of a strong institutional “diligence” (Klaufus et al 2017) towards enclaved developments, mixed with the mentioned individual sense of privilege and desire of limiting encounters, that is reshaping the city the way we all are observing.
I agree with Kalufus when he defines this diligence as the precursor of the urban fragmentation and enclaving in unequal cities. Maputo appears to me as a clear result of this.
A glimpse on the inside
What happens on the inside? Morten and I will have to work on a comparative case Intaka-Vila Sol where a kind of `double enclaving` is taking place in order to fulfil personal aspirations (both in Vila Sol and in Intaka residents are changing the original layout by building walls around individual houses), so I need to reflect with you also about the inside of condominios..
Beyond all the logical observations about how in Maputo the wall is a symbol of status, power, social differentiation through aesthetic and future life projections, the impression that I had in Vila Sol is that the necessity of protecting both the person and the goods, hiding them from an external view, depend on an intricate series of factors that I won´t be able to fully comprehend.
As soon as a sense of property embedded into Vila Sol, for example, it led to a crazy run to elevate walls to made everybody “the best version of themselves”, exactly through the hiding process.
At the same time, the walls allow social control: control of interactions with undesired residents and control towards the newcomers. The walls also allow to show a certain degree of power, inclusive through endless battles about who, between the two families on the same plot, will own the frontal part of the garden.
Nevertheless, despite the increased boundaries, the perception of security seems not so much changed within the Vila Sol community: residents did not allege that the wall had so much to do with security. Quite the contrary, they agreed that the more one hides, the more is exposed to envy and robbery (not a new concept indeed).
The car rides with constructor Elidio, the chats with young architects and with anthropologists Ana and Antoniette confirmed this statement and enlarged my knowledge about relations among hiding as the fear of being watched, control/power, and limited interactions.
Moreover, the conversations with young architects brought in my mind the metaphor of Panopticon, through which Foucault explored the relationship between “1.) systems of social control and people in a disciplinary situation and, 2.) the power-knowledge concept”. What I mostly saw reflected within condominiosin Maputo is the obsession of hiding in order not to be watched, even within an already gated place, just as if power over one came from observing others constantly and repetitively, “with knowledge and power reinforcing each other”.
It was not the first time that I was thinking about condominiosas an apparatus of social experiments; or that I was considering their alleged security as a mean of social surveillance. In sum, it was not the first time having the perception that in reality, they (the residents) were not controlling; they were the object of control - and fueled by a perception of insecurity which is directly proportional to the levels of isolation they put in place. For Foucault, the real danger was not necessarily that individuals are repressed by the social order but that they are "carefully fabricated in it" (Obeng-Odoom 2013, Foucault, 1977)
I had talked so much with Ana and Elidio about the fear of being observed…Some new architectural features like the typology of the windows, the layout of the house plant and the use of the garden are progressively being modified exactly because of this anxiety.
I had also talked extensively with few residents about the willingness of hiding in order to maintain a certain social power (in Guava, Laulane, Costa do Sol). Moreover, I had talked with Forjaz about how precarious and illusory the concept of security is, even within safe and gated places, including his office. He told to me, just after a silly (internal) robbery:
“Se é a verdade (verdade=factor objectivo e mesuravel) que a inseguranca aumentou, é verdade tambem que as pessoas nas casas deles “se defendem dos guardas que estao a lhes defender e de quem lhes está a olhar. E´ tudo muito mais relativo”.
Just as in Laulane Dona Diana builds a high wall and wants to put electric fence because the ladroesare young, well known and affluent vizinhos, in Vila Sol people protect themselves from the inside much more than from the outside.
In this sense the fear of being watched has also much to do with Runcimans´ concept of “relative deprivation”. Both the concepts (Panopticon and relative deprivation) are not accidentally used by Obeng-Odoom et al (2013) to analyse gated communities. In their cases (Malaysia and Ghana), they consider concepts as housing quality and security (factors alleged by who desires to live in a GC) as not stable but changing and flexible; what they consider quite fix is the perception of security as a vicious circle: as some residents “set themselves separated from the rest of the society by enclosing, they begin to feel the need for more security”, and so on. This feeling of insecurity is also fueled by the sensation of relative deprivation of those outside the walls, in a sense “allowed” to feel envy and to be tempted by all the wealth they are excluded from -just as Ana and Antoniette said- since the wealth and fortune are generally considered as not-gained, not-deserved benefits.
An internalized fear of being observed, the sense of privilege (to be “special citizens”, as Obeng-Odoom said), an illusory and ephemeral security, an external (planning apparatus) and internal social control and the relative deprivation of the neighbours are the main concepts that I am focusing on more and more when I visit a condominio, trying to define how these are materialized through constructions.
With these reflections, I am not here stating that the developments that I visited are leading exclusively to a sense of discontent of those outside and inside. Nevertheless, it is true that something “dysfunctional” characterises all the interviews and walks inside those developments.
The dysfunctionality is in primis related with the fact that in those overprotected environments the fear of being watched is still present and grows proportional to a sense of self-consciousness as privileged ones, thus leading to a vicious circle of mirrored windows, hidden garages, funny fences and A LOT of curtains (usually bought in South Africa by mukeristas).
At the same time, the interviews revealed an anxiety to redefine sociabilities as one of the main instruments to maintain a privilege status. Planel and Bridonneau (2017) wrote a beautiful article about how condominiosin general reshape sociabilities in cities´ peripheries, and their analysis is from the authoritarian point of view, wondering if condominios“crystallise new political aspirations” (as socio-political laboratories) “or if they reproduce a more authoritarian way of running and living public and private space”.
Vila Sol 1 is a peculiar and contradictory environment where the two mentioned concepts seem spatially manifested. From one side, a collective (collective=agreed) individualism that allows everybody to fulfil personal aspirations and to hide from unwanted encounters; from the other side, a sense of dependence from the state which provided a given and gated physical layout, thus allowing people to create new spatial rules and also new personalities (in sum, a spark of “political conservatism”).
All the above-mentioned factors made me understand a little bit more of the difference between an aesthetic/architecture of security and an aesthetic/architecture of control (I also remember a contribution of the conference mentioning this, but no idea who, sorry). If I suppose that we know enough about the architecture of security, a topic that it is worth more investigation is for sure the architecture of control, that is to say the one used to limit social encounters.
They also made me wonder about which kind of citizen is in an embryonic phase in many condominiosof the city, right now. As already said, all this does not mean to be a judgement. Still, I must confess that, maybe because of my recent past working for more equal and “fair” cities, it is actually a concern that I have to fight against -at the end- in my mind.
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