Neighborhood and Nation in Neoliberal Times: Urban Upheaval, Resistance, and National Identity in Buenos Aires, Argentina
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In the wake of the devastating Argentine economic crisis of 2001, Buenos Aires has undergone one of the largest real estate booms in the city’s history – a boom that is fundamentally reconfiguring the urban landscape. In the midst of a whirlwind of urban development, several self-identified middle-class neighborhood activist groups have emerged to contest the effects of the boom on the identity of their neighborhoods and city. One of these activist groups, Palermo Despierta, began a campaign in the Palermo district to prevent the construction of residential mega-towers – an icon of urban development since the crisis. This middle-class activism largely contradicts scholarship that categorizes middle-class urban dwellers as agents of “globalization-oriented urban development.” I argue that underlying this resistance is a desire to defend a historically imagined, national narrative of middle-class European identity inscribed in the urban space of Buenos Aires. In a city recovering from economic crisis, porteños (Buenos Aires residents) are contesting the globalizing of their city in order to re-emplace national narratives that remain at the heart of their urban identity. This nascent activism is deeply contradictory and problematic, however, as the narratives animating Palermo Despierta operate on the basis of historic racial and class hierarchies that exclude the racialized urban poor from the right to the city.