Regardless of their level of development, the large majority of cities in the world have grown with areas where the concentration of material poverty is combined with processes of institutional abandonment, economic marginalization, racial or ethnic discrimination, and stigmatization. The advance of neoliberalization, and the consequent proliferation of a variety of material and symbolic inequalities, have moved the idea of Urban Marginality beyond the discussions of the 50s, 60s and 70s, to a full presence in the 21st century. Zones occupied by drug dealing, homeless camps, informal settlements managed by pirate developers, massive evictions, public housing demolitions, racial and ethnic repositories, and zones prohibited by the media, among others, configure diverse forms in which different cities of the world seclude a large part of their population and the territories they occupy.
There has been a twofold response in these situations: first from academia and then from public policy. From academia, a powerful research tradition has been created and formalized around the idea of the so-called “neighborhood effects”: that is, the belief that the mere physical concentration of poverty leads to the appearance of countless social pathologies (teenage pregnancy, school dropout, youth inactivity, single parenthood, unemployment, crime, drug dealing and consumption, and a long etcetera). Given the wide volume of production of this research tradition, and the legitimacy that has acquire in several circles, the response from the political world has been pretty mechanical: if the concentration of poverty is generating social problems, its deconcentration (via demolitions or social mix) could revert them and generate a large number of benefits. However, such political response (so far widely implemented only in developed countries) has neither stopped nor reverted the “neighborhood effects” that pretends to tackle, much less has provided more social justice.
As an alternative perspective to the outlined here, within the research that supports this conference (Fondecyt # 11150426) we are studying how the institutions that participate in poor and excluded neighborhoods (whose administration lies out of them), have an influence in the production and reproduction of different social problems, either by their action or their inaction.
The International Conference on “Urban Marginality and Institutional Effects”, to be held on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of October, 2017, in Santiago de Chile, seeks to debate beyond the mere physical concentration of poor households, putting a special focus on the role that institutions play in the management and transformation of urban poverty. In other words, our goal is to delve into the institutional framework that shapes urban marginality in material and symbolic terms. The thematic lines of the conference point to diverse issues that include residential segregation, neighborhood effects, institutional action, territorial stigmatization, social capital, community ties, immigration and ethnicity, and socio-spatial conflicts.