The production of marginality. Paradoxes of urban planning and housing policies in Cali, Colombia
Despite massive investments and the deployment of a wide gamut of policies during the last 70 years, urban marginality persists in most Latin American cities. Although this condition has been strongly associated with informal settlements, the premise underpinning this research is that marginality can be produced by the state through the construction of large-scale social housing complexes grounded in urban planning and housing policies focused on imposing a physical-spatial order.
Drawing upon a cross-case analysis in two contrasting areas of Cali, Colombia, this dissertation reveals that the government’s approach to tackle marginality through ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’ has failed to address the two main drivers of marginality: 1) the enormous inequalities of a heterogeneous society underpinned by a capitalistic accumulation system; and, 2) the historical causes of such disparities grounded in colonialism, and perceived today through conditions such as the coloniality of power.
Although marginality is correlated with, but not entirely determined by, the economic and power structures, there are other factors that can be changed or influenced by public policy in order to reduce its effects. In this sense, urban marginality is understood in this dissertation as a multidimensional phenomenon whereby underprivileged communities deal, on a daily basis, with the constraints of ethno-racial segregation, informality, hyperunemployment and violence, in a context of limited participation in decision making.
The analysis of the case studies, carried out through the lens of what I term the five inherent characteristics of marginality ultimately shows that, as a counter-intuitive outcome of urban planning, beneficiaries of the government-led free housing programme developed in Cali are more severely affected by marginality than people living in the informal peripheries of District 18.