Based on a case study of the ‘regeneration’ of the ‘Five Estates’ of Peckham, a neighbourhood located in south-east London, this chapter considers the social implications of urban ‘regeneration’ processes from an anthropological perspective centred on concepts of waste and value and highlights the emotional turmoil and personal disruption that individuals affected by regeneration plans routinely experience.
An ethnographic approach is used based on participant observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviews as well as limited archival research. Life histories are central to the methodology and these result in the substantial use of long quotes from respondents, to highlight the ways in which they framed the issues as well as their opinions.
The chapter shows how urban regeneration processes that involve displacements and demolitions deeply affect the lives of estate residents. In juxtaposing the voices and experiences of local politicians, officers and residents it sheds light on the ways in which the values and interests of some individuals — those invested with more power, ultimately — ended up shaping regenerated landscapes. At the same time, the homes and communities valued by the residents who lived in them were demolished, removed and destroyed. They were wasted, literally and symbolically, erased from the landscape, their claims to it denied and ultimately forgotten.
The chapter highlights how while the rhetoric of regeneration strives to portray these developments as improvement and renewal, the ethnographic evidence shows instead the other side of urban regeneration as wasting both communities and urban landscapes resulting in ‘state-led gentrification’.
Thinking about regeneration and recycling through waste and value allows us to consider these processes in a novel way: at a micro level we can look at the ways in which individuals attribute to and recognise value in different sets of objects and social relationships. At the macro level we can then observe how the power dynamics that shaped the situation resulted in only a specific view and set of values to be enacted and respected, while all others were silenced, wasted and literally expelled from Peckham.
Glucksberg, L. (2017), "‘The Blue Bit, that Was My Bedroom’: Rubble, Displacement and Regeneration in Inner-City London", Watt, P. and Smets, P. (Ed.) Social Housing and Urban Renewal, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 69-103. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78714-124-720171014
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