‘Everywhere they are trying to hide poverty. I hate it!’: Spatial practices of the urban poor in Calgary, Canada

Erik Meij*, Tialda Haartsen, Louise Meijering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Globalizing cities such as Calgary, Canada's center of the oil and gas industry, are confronted with increasing socio-spatial inequalities and uneven development. The aim of this paper is to comprehend poverty in the disadvantaged area of Greater Forest Lawn (GFL) in Calgary through everyday spatial practices of the urban poor and to examine how these practices are affected by urban developments in the area. We provide an in-depth ethnographic account of everyday routines and social conventions of people experiencing poverty in GFL. Our findings reveal how spatial practices that enable poor residents in GFL to meet basic needs are precariously balanced with many intersecting social, spatial, economic, and political structures. They also portray how many residents feel new developments in the area attempt to hide the presence of poverty by oppressing the undesirable aspects associated with it. Consequently, GFL as a social space is increasingly torn between the spatial practices of those trying to cope with poverty and the urban development which imposes a spatial code of desirability and consumption. Consequently, we see urban development in the case of GFL as oppressive and recommend a shift from thinking about urban development in terms of desirability and profitability to becoming more aware of and involved in local practices. Overall, we argue that the right to the city includes the right to urban development in harmony with one's own everyday spatial practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-215
Number of pages10
JournalGeoforum
Volume117
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020

Keywords

  • Ethnography
  • Homelessness
  • Housing insecurity
  • Right to the city
  • Socio-spatial inequality

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