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Since the early 1990s, I have conducted fieldwork in the Bolivian city of El Alto, investigating the effects of urbanization on Aymara migrants who move from the…
Since the early 1990s, I have conducted fieldwork in the Bolivian city of El Alto, investigating the effects of urbanization on Aymara migrants who move from the countryside (campo) to the capital in search of employment, education, and a better life. El Alto is perched above La Paz, spreading out across the high plain (Altiplano) and increasing in size by nearly 10% each year. Although neighborhoods (barrios) in El Alto are often defined by geographic boundaries and population density, I argue that the concept of community is based upon trust (confianza). In El Alto, one's lineage eclipses heritage, as residents are more apt to define their “community” as those they trust rather than those who live near them or friends from the campo. For two years, I lived with Alvaro and his extended family at the periphery of El Alto, in the barrio of Huayna Potosí. Over time, he introduced me to other migrants, such as Teófilo, Pablo, and Marcelo, and their families, each of whom originated from different provinces near Lake Titicaca. In essence, migrants have similar bucolic backgrounds and skills which they implement in the city in order to survive, heightening competition for employment and suspicion between neighbors.
Cultural visibility is closely linked to physical and social mobility, and access to – or denial of – free movement through private and public spaces powerfully shapes…
Cultural visibility is closely linked to physical and social mobility, and access to – or denial of – free movement through private and public spaces powerfully shapes individual and social identities. As Liam Kennedy has shown in the context of urban space, “the operations of power are everywhere evident in space: space is hierarchical – zoned, segregated, gated – and encodes both freedoms and restrictions – of mobility, of access, of vision” (2000, pp. 169–170). A consideration of how film articulates a relationship between space and identity might thus begin by breaking down the concept of space itself into three distinct yet interconnected areas of analysis: first, the notion of socially produced space, as shown in the work of Henri Lefebvre and others; second, the idea of audience space or the architectural space of the theater; and finally, the theory of film space or the space of the screen. Given this essay’s limited scope, the latter will be examined in more detail than the first two, but I would like to stress the underlying interconnectedness of the three. While, for example, formalist studies of film aesthetics may be just as valuable as in-depth studies of changing viewing habits, audience demographics, and exhibition technologies, film interpretation should strive to keep in view the variety of spatial formations and conditions that might come to bear on any particular visual text.
This case study suggests that tourism as a mode of revitalization for Harlem is not just a strategy put forward by the local business community or adopted by the Empowerment Zone, nor is it a new phenomenon. Tourism emerged at a time of economic restructuring; it was shaped by global trends, and it has continuity with an earlier period of internationalization. Now, as in the past, Harlem's chief attraction is its cultural capital, based in part on difference or cultural “otherness“ and mediated by the popular culture and entertainment industries.But unlike the past, Harlem's present attraction is also its aggregate buying power. This interacts synergistically with the developing tourism industry. The the combination of globalization and saturated suburbia, together with the shift from standardized mass markets to flexible specialization and niche marketing—the hallmarks of post-Fordism, signal the penetration of areas bypassed and thus marginalized by corporate capital at an earlier industrial phase. Although this raises the question of wether we are talking about development or tourism, in reality both residents and tourist use facilities such as movies, shopping centers, and retaurants, and the power of tourism derives, in part, from the difficulty of disentangling the two uses.14The question of “whose Harlem” still remains. One hypothesis is that tourism may be a leveling force, helping to rebalance or reverse the type of uneven spatial development that Harlem symbolizes, and leading to a new industrial geography. But local control is clearly limited by the nature of the forces involved. Where local critics may see “conspiracy,” Deborah Wright, former head of the Empowerment Zone, sees capitalism and says: “One of the basic tenets of capitalism is that you can't control it” (Johnson 1998).