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Struggles around housing: La Plaza de la Hoja in Colombia

Iversen, Karen Schouw (2023) Struggles around housing: La Plaza de la Hoja in Colombia. In: Hughes, Sarah M., (ed.) Critical Geographies of Resistance. Elgar, Cheltenham, Glos, 153 - 167. ISBN 9781800882874

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Identification Number: 10.4337/9781800882881.00019


This chapter examines resistance through an empirical enquiry into struggles in and around a housing project built for displaced victims of the armed conflict in Bogota, Colombia. Standing at what was once the site of an occupation in demand of housing, La Plaza de la Hoja was built as part of a commitment by the Colombian government to build 100.000 free housing units for victims of the armed conflict in the country. This commitment followed two decades of protests and occupations in demand of rights by displaced persons themselves. Therefore, La Plaza de la Hoja allows us to trace processes of collective resistance in action. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and 14 interviews conducted with residents in the housing project between 2017 and 2018, the chapter argues that there is a both a certain hybridity (Sharp et al. 2000) and a dynamism, to resistance around and in the housing project. The project itself is highly hybrid, containing traces of both logics of resistance and logics of domination. On the one hand, the housing project is the outcome of a struggle for rights by displaced persons. Located in a central area of Bogota, La Plaza de la Hoja has provided 457 families with housing in a city where they have traditionally been marginalised, signalling the potential splintering of a class-based territorial segregation. On the other hand, the housing project carries traces of longer-running dynamics consistent with processes of exclusion and marginalisation facing the internally displaced in Colombia. Firstly, only a minority of Colombia’s 7.5 million internally displaced population has been allocated housing, meaning most have been excluded from the project. Secondly, despite its central location, residents in La Plaza de la Hoja are in many ways physically and socially segregated from their middle- class neighbours, and little has been done to improve their socio-economic conditions. As such, the project contains traces of both demands for rights, and longer-running processes of exclusion and marginalisation, reflecting what Sharp et al. (2000, p. 1) have called the ‘mutually constitutive’ relationship between domination and resistance. Struggles in and around the housing project further reflected a certain dynamism. Interviews conducted with residents revealed how, for many, it was only after they moved to La Plaza de La Hoja and met neighbours who had lived through similar circumstances that they began to see their own situation as political and began to be involved in demands for rights. Moreover, many residents became involved in new forms of resistance, for instance through feminist community groups, in the housing project. Finally, since being built La Plaza de la Hoja has turned into a key site of broader processes of resistance in Bogota, as alliances have been built between residents and for instance students at the nearby National University, and as diverse protests are now held at La Plaza de la Hoja, not exclusively focused on the rights of the displaced. This points to the need for a conceptualisation of resistance as not only hybrid, but as also dynamic and constantly shifting.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Editor
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 21 May 2024 16:12
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 23:14

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