Luisa Sotomayor: Socio-Spatial Inequality, Violence, and the Emergence of Social Urbanism in Medellín (2004–11)
Luisa Sotomayor is an urban researcher based in Toronto, Canada. She recently completed a Ph.D. in planning from the University of Toronto. Sotomayor's work is divided into two areas of recent, significant planning inquiry: the emergence of regimes of socio-spatial inequality in contemporary Latin American cities, and the potential of land use planning techniques and urban policy experimentations to reduce the urban divide. At the core of Sotomayor's work is a question about the role that urban planning can fulfill in redressing socio-spatial imbalances and promoting more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable urban environments. Sotomayor's research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the International Development Research Centre of Canada, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship Program, among others.
Medellín, a city known as one of the most unequal and violent in the world, has recently been praised as an example of urban innovation. Grounded on claims to social justice and democracy, in 2004 the city adopted a policy called social urbanism. With this approach, Medellín expanded infrastructure and social investments to marginalized districts, instituted participatory programs, and sought to integrate precarious enclaves in the "formal" city through transit policy, public spaces, and emblematic architecture. This talk is about the emergence of social urbanism. It will discuss its origins, political rationalities, and tactics on the ground. Through an examination at the neighborhood scale, Sotomayor will identify the gaps and ambivalences that emerge between the politics of three disparate logics at play: first, goals of development and socio-spatial redistribution; second, the pressures cities face to repair local economies and attract foreign resources; and third, the influence of violent actors, including both organized crime and the repressive arm of the state.