Urban planning in the neoliberal era is marred by a lack of public engagement with urban inhabitants. Henri Lefebvre’s ‘right to the city’ theory is often treated as a way to empower disenfranchised urban inhabitants who are lacking control over the urban spaces they occupy. Though the right to the city has seen a resurgence in recent literature, we still lack a deep understanding of how right to the city movements work in practice, and what the process looks like through the lens of the everyday urban inhabitant. This dissertation seeks to fill these gaps by examining: 1) how a minority-led grassroots movement activates their right to the city in the face of an incoming light rail extension project in South Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and 2) how their right to the city movement demonstrates the possibility of urban society beyond the current control of neoliberalism. Through the use of participant observation, interviews, and media analysis, this case reveals the methods and tactics used by the group to activate their right to the city, the intra-and inter-group dynamics in the case, and the challenges that ultimately lead to the group’s demise.Tactics used by the group included protesting, organizing against city council, and creating a ballot initiative. Intra-group dynamics were often marred by conflicts over leadership and the acceptance of outside help, while inter-group conflicts erupted between the group, politicians, and pro-light rail supporters. The primary challenge to the group’s right to the city movement included neoliberal appropriation by local politicians and outside political group. By possessing limited experience, knowledge, and resources in conducting a right to the city movement, the grassroots group in this case was left asking for help from neoliberal supporters who used their funding as a way to appropriate the urban inhabitant’s movement. Findings indicate positive possibilities of a future urban society outside of neoliberalism through autogestion, and provide areas where urban planners can improve upon the right to the city. If urban planners seek out and nurture instances of the right to the city, urban inhabitants will have greater control over planning projects that effect their neighborhoods.
- When the appropriators become the appropriated: battling for the right to the city in South Phoenix, Arizona
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Statement of Responsibility
by Ashlee Tziganuk