Graduate student Gustavo Rivera, Jr., with the guidance of Dr. Kesha Fikes, will undertake research on the limits and effects of urban governance in regulation of land use by the poor. The researcher will examine how urban renewal experts and squatter settlement residents reconcile conflicting notions of spatial usage and habitation when public housing is constructued within squatter spaces.
The research will be carried out in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city. During the first phase of the project, the researcher will conduct archival research to become familiar with the history of housing policies, urban renewal, and squatter settlements (favelas) in Belo Horizonte. In the following phases, the researcher will conduct in-depth interviews with urban renewal experts and favela residents before and after relocation to new public housing units, and observe at participatory planning meetings where both experts and residents are present. The researcher also will collect visual documents, such as hand-sketched drawings of houses, photographs of interior domestic spaces, and aerial maps, which he use to elicit ideas about the city and use of space from informants.
The research will shed light on how governments can work more effectively with residents of squatter settlements, and whether relocation to public housing provides a channel for traditionally marginalized residents to acquire more rights and legitimacy as citizens. It thereby will contribute to social science theories of place, space, urban governance, and citizenship. The research also will contribute to the education of a graduate student.