Ben Gerlofs: "Así No (Not Like This): Resisting Postpolitics on Mexico City's Avenida Chapultepec"

Wed, Feb 6, 2019, 12:00 pm

Ben Gerlofs

Building on roughly ten months of ethnographic and archival research, this presentation examines successful resistance to a planned redevelopment project along Avenida Chapultepec, one of Mexico City’s historic boulevards. Local residents and their allies objected not only to the specifics of the project but also to its planning process, in which citizen input was foregrounded but extremely limited. This case illustrates the instantiation of a ‘postpolitical condition’ in Mexico City, a situation in which any opportunity for dissensus has been foreclosed and ironically replaced by a growing set of carefully managed participatory schemes and an ever-greater rhetorical commitment to democratization. The public contest over the so-called Corredor Cultural Chapultepec effectively demonstrates two claims I seek to advance. The first is that strategic vulnerabilities of such political orders can be effectively sought in their conditions of emergence or the contextually specific ways that such orders consolidate political power. The second is that in seeking to elucidate and challenge these conditions, resistance must account for the ways in which certain ‘partition[ings] of the sensible’ (Rancière, 2010) operate at the quotidian level of attitudes, norms and routines to assign and continually reproduce the places and roles of urban citizens.

Ben Gerlofs works at the intersection of urban, cultural, political, and historical geography, and his current projects in Mexico City are concentrated around three major foci: 1) the political economy of urbanization in historical perspective; 2) the dynamics of contemporary urban social movements and the field of potential for grassroots politics; and 3) processes related to neighborhood change, including but not limited to gentrification. He explores these issues in the dynamic hyper-metropolis that is the Mexican capital city—the most populous urban area in the western hemisphere—whose historic neighborhoods are being demographically and aesthetically altered at an incredible rate, and whose systems of governance are on the edge of wholesale renovation as the city sheds the guise of the Federal District and is reborn as the State of Mexico City for the first time since the Mexican Revolution. His current book project, A Right to Leviathan: Grassroots Politics in the City of Palaces, interrogates the multivalent transformations of the Mexican capital from the last years of the Porfiriato to the present, and his current research project focuses on the intersection of urban environmental catastrophe and political economies of urban change.

Lunch provided. Free and open to the public.

216 Burr Hall