Place attachment in informal settlements: the influence of community leaders in Mexico

Rojas Rivera, Concepcion del Carmen (2020) Place attachment in informal settlements: the influence of community leaders in Mexico. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The research questions explored in this study are: “How is place attachment built and nurtured in informal settlements within impoverished communities in Mexico?”, and “What is the role of community leaders in this context?”. Informal settlement’s development, formalization, relocation or failure rests mainly on the actions of its residents rather than on the governance and policies of authorities. Community leaders are critical figures within the community; however, research on leadership in informal settlements has been rarely studied due to difficulties in accessing communities and communicating with authorities. Additionally, literature about how leadership influences socio-spatial relationships amongst residents is scarce. Thus, this research examines how different community leaders directly or indirectly influence this process. Place attachment studies on informal settlements generally tend to focus on the place-making activities that a community engages in and the feelings of attachment that result (Lombard, 2014). Defining the variables that affect place attachment in informal settlements is crucial to understanding how they function, especially towards development or relocation processes.

To explore this phenomenon, a case study of eight informal settlements on the outskirts of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, is presented. This case study identifies the type of leadership and the physical and social aspects of place which have an impact on the inhabitants’ ability to grow attachment to the site (or otherwise). It applies grounded theory and a mixed methodology, including semi- ethnographic data collection methods (workshops, informal interviews and site observation and documentation), alongside the analysis of planning documents collected between 2016 – 2018. The study is structured according to the place attachment trichotomy of identity, dependence and social cohesion. A range of variables are identified, analyzed and correlated, such as leadership style, site location and method of establishment, site management/maintenance and activity, topographic characteristics of the site and economic level of residents.

Results will show a direct relationship between the type of leadership and the degree of attachment to place that residents of informal settlements can develop. As self-appointed urban planners, leaders have control of the design of the layout and assignation of plots, and as authority figures, they have influence on community work and social life. Different personalities of leaders influence the different types and depths of attachment that residents can have towards place. The political capital of the leaders can help overcome the temporality of tenure of the plots, and either enhances or decreases the sense of belonging to the settlement; the degree to which the leaders organize also contributes towards the strengthening of the community. The input that leaders have on the layout of the housing plots directly impacts future possibilities of social engagement, neighbourly relations and identity creation. Overall, these results challenge the current dominant narrative of community leaders as exploitative ‘villains’ (Xaba, 1994) and instead portrays them to be active and crucial agents in place-making. The study also contributes new insights into effective methods of conducting research in the challenging context of informal settlements. Place attachment, when studied in the context of informal dwelling, must recognize the need of a house as a crucial variable; however, it is the type of leadership that helps develop the sense of being at home.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Borsi, Katharina
Porter, Nicole
Rodrigues, Lucelia
Keywords: Informal, Settlements, Place attachment.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 60952
Depositing User: ROJAS RIVERA, Concepcion
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2020 09:55
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2020 09:55

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