Given that the different methods to understand a phenomenon always have consequences on its definition, historian Jacques Revel1 posed during the launch of a book in 1996, the need to comprehend that a social reality varies depending on the level of analysis.
The issue 76 of Revista INVI called for open themes, nevertheless the six articles presented in this edition are an example of phenomena located in unusual situations, different from those that we are accustomed to and that share the intention to bring to light different textures and unconventional aspects of the phenomena.
According to Revel, changing the focal length lens not only magnifies or reduces the size of the object under observation but also modifies its shape and composition.
As for the six articles presented in this edition of Revista INVI, the change of focus is the result of the interest in becoming aware of the current situation of city dwellers within the context of the different dynamics affecting them, and also the adoption of points of view to understand such dynamics. This shift entails comprehending that a city is not a preexistent entity as a whole but an object that is being progressively and dynamically built and where diverse actors participate at different levels, scales and time. In other words, these investigations broaden the objectives that Revista INVI has intended to reach in its exploration of habitat by showing its complexity and the need of multi-scaled and multidisciplinary approaches to properly understand the habitat issue.
This change of focus, brought by the articles presented in this issue, is divided into two categories. While the first one shows the "b-side" of unobserved urban realities, the second one refers to the "arts of doing" 2 of actors within a territory. We show this "b-side" because it reveals certain aspects that have been ignored because of their complexities or because they challenge the way we organize our collective life. We chose the classic "arts of doing" because it suggests the important role of people in the production of the realities they are immersed in and the issues affecting them.
The article "Norms, sense of community and neighborhood collectivism in a high-rise setting", written by Yung Yau, shows that participation within housing management in a high-rise context may be promoted through the improvement of collective efficacy, thus reinforcing bonds among residents. This research also suggests that a long-term task is required to boost the participation of residents in housing management activities; that means in a different time scale to that related to the classic immediacy of processes aimed at encouraging neighborhood participation.
The analysis of López et. al. entitled "Urban state-entrepreneurialism in Chile: policies and planning within high-rise residential production in the pericenter Area of Greater Santiago" pays attention to the different levels within metropolitan, communal and intra-communal realms. This allows to reveal how "the urban planning scale is reduced, leading to the fragmentation of space in urban areas of focalized real estate development", thus overlooking the effects generated at metropolitan level. It is that shift in focus at different scales which makes it possible to identify the "b-side" of a pro- entrepreneurialist urbanism, characterized by a logic of competition among municipalities instead of coordination.
People’s perspective is the access key chosen by Wormald et.al. to address the "Cohesive culture and integration in Chilean cities." The authors of this article explore contact experiences among people from different social backgrounds and the meaning given to each of them, demonstrating a lack of actual links among individuals belonging to different socioeconomic backgrounds. In the opinion of the authors, such a "weakening of links has important consequences related to the appreciation for others", since that real experience is replaced by "an imaginary tainted with suspicion and ignorance". Consequently, this situation affects the willingness of people to take part in social mix spaces.
The article written by Salas et.al., which focuses on construction methods ("Usage of Neutral Elements of Construction in Latin America"), highlights the need to pay attention to the "arts of doing" of people within a territory, since the search of materials and self-construction, despite being disregarded in studies on housing production, constitute common practices in Latin America. The inclusion of the aforementioned elements in housing improvement processes is essential when it comes to "providing better technical features to constructions, derived from the initiative of dwellers" and contributing to the improvement of quality of life.
The article "Territorial stigmatization as a form of neighborhood violence. The Case of El Castillo", authored by Catalina Cornejo, reveals the way territorial stigmatization is experienced as a form of violence in a neighborhood located in the southern area of Santiago de Chile and demonstrates that understanding violence beyond the sphere of crime is both possible and necessary. To this effect, the approach of this research is based on the discourse of dwellers, being this a necessary procedure to analyze the dynamics that give shape to stigma and to observe the active participation of individuals when it comes to resisting this stigmatization process.
Finally, in her article "Looking for participative negotiation: The case of the Union Eco-Neighborhood Project, Lille, France", María de Lourdes Flores Lucero closes this issue by pointing out to "the lack of pre-established formulas aimed at developing a project for participative management" and the need to generate a series of material and procedural conditions to ensure proper participation. In this context, the role and behavior of dwellers is a key issue, in particular when they link together generating alternative spaces for dialogue, thus enhancing the effectiveness of relationships with local authorities in participation processes.
In sum, these six contributions address different topics ranging from participation of residents in the production of their habitat to the analysis of construction and self-help construction methods, including urban planning, the creation of relationships and social cohesion and generation of stigmas. Founded upon a plurality of methodological strategies, these articles analyze previously unobserved aspects of the aforementioned phenomena, stressing the perspectives of dwellers as a relevant and necessary approach to observe the formation of cities and the production of habitat.
This issue of Revista INVI is intended to provide a clear message: any form of observation involves a specific and limited stance. Paraphrasing Revel, only the enhancing of approaches and perspectives and the multiplication of our understanding and dialogue may deliver dividends when trying to grasp specific changes throughout history.
Luis Campos Medina
CERTEAU, Michel de. La invención de lo cotidiano. México, Universidad Iberoamericana. 1996.
REVEL, Jacques, dir. Jeux d’échelles. La micro-histoire à l’expérience. Paris, Gallimard-Le Seuil. 1996.