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Academic Projects

Dr. Clara Irazábal-Zurita

Articles Under Revise-and-Resubmit Status

Irazábal, C. “Coastal Urban Planning in ‘The Green Republic’: Tourism Development and the Nature-Infrastructure Paradox in Costa Rica.” Revised and resubmitted to the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR), July 26th, 2017. Manuscript ID: IJURR-Art-1703.R2.

This article examines coastal urban planning in Costa Rica vis-à-vis the country’s expressed values in the areas of sustainable tourism and community development, focusing on the city of Jacó. It argues that an anti-urban tourism development strategy, a swift growth of coastal urban development, and weak planning have nurtured a nature-infrastructure paradox, whereby bringing people closer to nature without the proper urban and governmental infrastructure is causing social and environmental damage. To assess the paradox and understand local perceptions towards development, this study analyzed long, semi-structured interviews and survey responses in San José and Jacó. Research methods also encompassed the analysis of current tourism planning institutions and regulations, tourism media coverage and reports, real estate data, participant observation of planning and community meetings and activities, and observations of the built and natural environmental conditions in Jacó and its surroundings. The findings show jurisdictional fragmentation, regulatory weaknesses and complexity, poor coordination, slow action, and incoherent planning and development effecting environmental degradation and socio-spatial inequities. A more balanced approach to planning and development would seek to improve environmental health and socio-spatial equity in tandem, by nurturing and advancing both nature and infrastructure development. Jacó’s lessons have global resonance, given the expansion of the worldwide tourism and second-home/retirement housing industries, their recent concentration in coastal urban destinations of developing countries, and the fragility of these socio-ecological systems.

Handal, C. and C. Irazábal. “Lost-and-Found Public Space Paradox: “Safer Barrios” and the Perversion of Governance and Citizenship in Tegucigalpa, Honduras,” Revised and-resubmitted to the Journal of Urban Affairs, July 15th, 2017. Manuscript ID: JUA-16-229.R1.

This paper analyzes the paradoxical lost-and-found and lost-again spatial dynamics created by “Safer Barrios,” a security initiative that redefines notions of governance, citizenship, community, and the public in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The complex findings reveal a program produced by a public-private-people partnership that seems to enhance democracy and participation by fostering a greater sense of community and safety for participants. These results, however, derive from the perversion of governance for the public good and citizenship as an equalizer status for Hondurans. The (re)creation of sociability space within gates precisely happens due to its own constraint. The benefits temporarily accrue for just a few and at an ever-higher price to the larger public outside the gates, and can negatively affect all in the long term if and when more streets in the city are gated than necessary to facilitate circulation. This study includes qualitative research and quantitative data gathered from the program’s inception in 2011 to 2016. The findings expose critical implications that this fast growing practice has for design, planning, and policy making. They also reveal that these newly gated residential areas demand a more nuanced analysis than that which traditional gated communities have received.

Articles Under Peer-Review

Angueloski, I., C. Irazábal, and J. Connolly. “’Grabbed’ landscapes of pleasure and privilege: Socio-spatial inequities and dispossession in infrastructure planning in Medellín.” Submitted to International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, June 27th, 2017. Manuscript ID: IJURR-Art-3542.

Cities confronted with unsustainable development and climatic changes are increasingly turning to green infrastructure as an approach for growth and climate risks management. In this context, recent scholarly attention has been paid to gentrification, real estate speculation, and resident displacement in the context of sustainability and green planning in the global North. Yet, we know little about the environmental justice implications of green infrastructure planning in the context of self-built settlements of the Global South. To what extent do green infrastructure interventions produce or exacerbate urban socio-spatial inequities in self-built settlements? Through the analysis of the Green Belt project, an emblematic case of green infrastructure planning in Medellín, we argue that, as the municipality of Medellín is containing and beautifying low-income neighborhoods through grabbing part of their territories and turning them to green ‘landscapes of privilege and pleasure,’ communities are becoming dispossessed of their greatest assets, namely location, land, and social capital. At the same time, community land is transformed into a new form of aesthetically controlled and ordered nature for the new Medellin middle and upper class. In contrast, communities’ planning alternatives reveal how planning can better address growth and climate risks in tandem with equitable community development.

Irazábal, C., I. Sosa, and L. Schlenker. “The Sleek High-Rise And The Makeshift House: Rhizomatic Collisions In Caracas’ Torre David.” Submitted to ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, December 31st, 2016. Manuscript ID: 1516.

A 45-story tower in Caracas formerly occupied by some 5,000 squatters, Torre David was touted as the world’s most spectacular “vertical slum.” This, among other sensationalized accounts, failed to consider the paradoxical ways in which Caracas’ formal and informal, urban and architectural trajectories literally collided with each other in Torre David. The modern high-rise and the self-built house—antagonist spatial typologies in Caracas’ growth—were dramatically superposed in the tower, unleashing hitherto un(fore)seen dynamics. Through site fieldwork, interviews, film production, media analysis, and historical research, we offer a nuanced theorization of Torre David that grapples with its charged tensions between the formal and informal, the modern and traditional, modernity and postmodernity, reality and imagination, and capitalism and socialism. Ultimately, we argue that these tensions created a rhizomatic socio-spatial field heavily pregnant with both risks and hopes for the people, the government, and the spatial disciplines. We conducted ethnographic and film documentary engagements between January 2011 and August 2014, producing a feature-length documentary with which some of this piece’s data is shared. In addition, media analyses, historical research, and expert consultations in Venezuela and the United States comprised our methodological approach.

Work In Progress

Irazábal, C. “The Counter Land Grabbing of the Precariat: Housing Movements and Restorative Justice in Brazil.” Journal article manuscript.

Members of the Brazil’s precariat, politically organized in national social housing movements, are courageously pressing for a true urban reform in Brazil, whose promise has been systematically delayed and subverted even by those who were put in power to realize it. By occupying vacant buildings and underused land, not only are these unsung heroes/heroines confronting neoliberalism in Brazil at a time of the model’s highest level of hegemony in the world. They are making visible the impossibility of the system to deliver socio-spatial justice to the poor and are enacting an alternative. Through a restorative justice practice, they go beyond political critique and show us an alternate project that would allow millions of people in Brazil access to decent housing, and through it, to myriad other opportunities—the right to the city. As shown in these experiences, restorative justice deserves further exploration as an alternative planning mode that can combine the strengths of advocacy and communicative action planning while reducing their drawbacks. These reflections are the result of ethnographic work on several building and land occupations in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil in March 2016.

Dias da Silva, R. and C. Irazábal. “Boom, Burst, and Doom: COMPERJ and Urban-Regional Development in Brazil.” Journal article manuscript.

Considered the largest investment project in Brazil in recent decades, the Rio de Janeiro State Petrochemical Complex (COMPERJ) is unfinished and paralyzed due to the serious economic and political crisis in Brazil since 2014. Planned to change the productive profile of the region, the complex was seen as a possible watershed for the socio-economic dynamics of Rio de Janeiro, especially for the poor municipality of Itaboraí, where it is located. The project’s cycle has followed the recent trajectory of the national economy, showing itself another case of boom, burst and doom related to mega-investment projects based on natural resources. This article aims to analyze the development path of COMPERJ, seeking to explain the determinants of the project’s peak and decline, highlighting the main effects on the urban dynamics in Itaboraí, in the metropolitan east of Rio de Janeiro. In addition, the work indicates how the project was one of the most representatives of the national developmentalist model between 2003-2013. The study highlights the problems of metropolitan peripheral urbanization and the role that large investment projects have over regional productive and social structures and dynamics. What was expected to be the trigger for growth has instead reinforced past problems in one of the poorest regions in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with the emergence of new urban challenges and dilemmas. Making use of literature review, historical sources and data analysis, the study seeks to present the limits and possibilities that the activity of large industry has on the urban and regional dynamics of peripheral metropolitan regions.

Irazábal, C. and J.C. Castro. “Venezuela’s Grand Housing Mission: Janus-Faced, Reversed Gentrification in Caracas.” Journal article manuscript.

In conventional processes of gentrification, upper class residents start populating traditionally lower-income neighborhoods eventually causing an economic and spatial transformation that starts displacing the original residents. In Caracas, massive construction of social housing in central areas of the city carried out by the Venezuelan Grand Housing Mission (Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela, GMVV) is producing a reversal of sorts of this process. Fulfilling the aspirations of most anti-gentrification demands, the GMVV affords low-income residents new, decent housing in prime areas of the city. These material gains, however, prove insufficient and often even counter-productive when delivered without an integral program of socio-spatial inclusion, conviviality, and rehabilitation. Left to fend for themselves in these new locations and housing complexes, residents are challenged to both reproduce the level of supporting social networks and services they had in their places of origin and insert themselves in educational and labor systems of opportunity to improve their wellbeing. In addition, the forced coexistence between different socio-economic classes in the central neighborhoods does not naturally produce conviviality and instead often exacerbates distrust and class struggle, creating micro-geographies of spatial segregation and social alienation. Finally, the disruption of the urban capitalist order from above—via land and building expropriations, social housing construction and allocation, and class mixing—is insufficient to promote a more just city when unaccompanied by the assumption of anti-capitalist values and practices from below. Instead of a top-down, viviendista approach to social housing production and location, GMVV would do better focusing less on housing quantity production and instituting instead more holistic and participatory programs of context-sensitive habitat co-rehabilitation and management.

Dr. Theresa Torres

Work In Progress

The Founding of Latinx and Latin American Studies at University of Missouri-Kansas City

This article has been requested by the journal Dialogo, from DePaul University, and focuses on the important role of Latinx leadership in the development of the UMKC Latinx and Latin American Studies Program. The article includes the historical events leading up to the founding and development of the program along with interviews with some of the key participants in its founding.

Guadalupe Centers, Inc.: Leadership and Fostering a Latinx Community: 1990s-2017

This article, which is being submitted for an anthology on Latinxs in the Midwest, develops the historical setting and context that reveals the significant leadership of Guadalupe Centers for Kansas City metropolitan area. The Guadalupe Centers, Inc. (GCI) has made a lasting impact on the lives of many Latinxs and people living in poverty in the Westside of Kansas City and surrounding metropolitan areas. The purpose of the Guadalupe Center article is to document their leadership as a nonprofit agency at the local, regional, and national levels. What are the ingredients to the leadership and success of GCI from 1990 to 2015? This question is the central focus of the research and will be the based on (archival research, interviews, photographs, and videos), so that others will learn the significant elements of the long-lasting legacy of success and leadership that can be passed on from one generation to another.

Latina Leaders: The Spirituality, Resilience, and Resistance that Grounds their Leadership

This book is an on-going writing project that incorporates interviews of ten Latinas’ wisdom based on their histories of leadership and social justice commitment to empower their communities. The women were selected on the basis of their proven leadership and the respect of their communities as leaders. The timeline for this book is publication in 2018-2019.

Dr. Joseph Hartman

Work In Progress

Hartman, J.R. “Race, Gender, and Giants in Cuba.” Journal article manuscript.

Havana’s Statue of the Republic, over fifty feet-tall and forty-nine tons in weight, announced the monumental ambitions of the Cuban state when unveiled in 1929. This essay argues that La República activates a range of memories, myths, and meanings for Cuba’s citizenry. On the surface, the statue resembles a Pallas Athena: the Greek goddess of wisdom. This fact, however, belies complex local histories of race and gender. Two Cuban women reportedly posed as models for La República. A white, elite criolla provided the sculpture’s head; a famous mulata nude model, its body. With critical analysis of nearby monuments, period photography, literature, and architecture, this essay concludes that La República remains a complex, unresolved symbol of nationhood bound to the cultural memories of Cuba’s people.

Hartman, J.R. “Oh Capitol, My Capitol: Neoclassicism, Nationalism, and the Limits of the American Imperium in Havana, San Juan, and Manila.” Journal article manuscript.

Neoclassical formalism embodied a new U.S. dominion in the ex-colonies of Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898. This essay will examine three works of civic architecture constructed in Manila, Havana, and San Juan, each used as seats of legislature and patronized by local civic leaders under the auspices of the United States during the 1920s. The Federal-style architecture of the Caribbean and Pacific legislative buildings activated a complicated network of reproduction and simulacrum in the island nations and the American Imperium. The Philippines’ Legislative Building, built in 1926 and formerly intended as a grand Capitol under Daniel Burnham’s unfinished 1905 plan, featured a neoclassic temple façade; Cuba’s Capitolio, unveiled in 1929, was a near-replica of the Capitol in Washington D.C.; and Puerto Rico’s Capitolio, also inaugurated in 1929, employed designs nearly identical to Cuba’s. Drawing from shared geographies and cultures, the Spanish Caribbean examples were necessarily distinct from the Legislative Building of Manila. Nonetheless, the three buildings displayed remarkable parallels in their respective histories and designs. With the support of U.S. financial and political interests, local architects trained in the United States and Europe created the design for each building (Raul Otero, Rafael Carmoega, Juan M. Arellano, among others). They employed a mixture of indigenous symbolism with “universal” signifiers of Western democracy. So too, the three buildings embodied typologies of quintessential North American Capitols, Statehouses, and Legislative Buildings, as seen in the porticos, copulas, rotundas, and symmetrical wings of legislative houses in Minnesota, Texas, and many other states. Unveiled within three years of one another under the administration of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and used variously as sites for legislation and political ceremonies: The three buildings reveal an untold history that moves beyond common narratives of monument cataloguing and Western appropriations. This paper will argue that these replications expressed a contested transnational vision of nationalism within the American Empire. Supported by local politicians as well as U.S. financial and political interests, the buildings were symbols of local sovereignty negotiated through and around longer histories of U.S. imperial hegemony and Spanish colonialism. The three “Capitols” registered the capitalist ambitions of the United States as well as Cuban, Filipino, or Puerto Rican assertions of national identity and autonomy.

Hartman, J.R. “Imperial Islands: Vision and Experience in the American Empire after 1898.” Panel (and topic of second book project) organized for College Arts Association, Los Angeles, February 21-24, 2018.

The empire of the United States began with a bang in 1898. The US Navy docked the Maine battleship in Havana’s bay to protect Americans living in war-torn Cuba. It exploded under mysterious circumstances. The US blamed Spain and joined rebel forces to liberate the island in the Spanish-American War. Three months later, the US (not Cuban) flag replaced Spain’s atop Havana’s Morro Castle. Cubans soon found themselves under the power of a new American Imperium. By the end of the so-called “Splendid Little War,” the United States had taken possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Massive infrastructural investments and bureaucratic overhauls from the United States redefined the ex-colonies of Spain, creating a visible confrontation of local indigenous, African, Spanish, and US imperial cultures. This session showcases papers that reconsider how the United States and the island nations of the Americas and Southeast Asia were transformed through histories of visual, spatial, and material culture after 1898; including, but not limited to, studies on photography, print culture, popular media, performance, urbanism, and architecture. In all cases, papers will address the consumption and production of art in support or critique of US imperialism at the turn of the century.

Hartman, J.R. “By Ford! The Automobile and the Urban/Rural Experience of Modern Cuba.” Conference presentation for Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), Columbus, OH, October 25-28, 2017.

“The new Ford is more than a new car. It is an integral part of life, progress, and prosperity in the nation.” So begins a popular 1929 advertisement circulating in Cuba for a Ford Sports Coupe. Beneath an art-deco typeface appears a printed image of two Jazz-age couples out on a joyride along a moonlit highway through the Cuban countryside. The ad shows how the car and expressions of mobility in the landscape were woven into constructs of urbanity and modern tourism in Cuba. Just four years before, the regime of Cuban Dictator Gerardo Machado had created a 700-mile highway that connected Havana to the Cuban landscape. It also united Cuba, via ferry in Miami, to U.S. Highway 1 and the American consumer market. This paper will argue that the automobile in Cuba collapsed differences between rural and urban, allowing for the construction of new modernist identities on the island. The car, according to literary critic Raymond Williams, is a “form of settlement, intersecting and often deeply affecting what we think of as settlements –cities, towns, villages – in an older mode.” Cuba’s ubiquitous Ford cars represented new modes of being, deeply connected to economies and ecologies at home and abroad.

Hartman, J.R. “Of Empires and Dreams: A Discussion of the U.S. Imperium and the Art of Latin America and the Latinx Community.” Invited talk for LLAS Ideas Workshop. September 27, 2017

The U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana’s harbor in 1898. The United States invaded Cuba, and the American Empire began with a bang. By the end of the so-called “Splendid Little War” with Spain, the United States took possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Sudden cultural influx and infrastructural investment from the United States redefined the ex-colonies of Spain, creating a visible confrontation of local indigenous, Spanish, African, and U.S. imperial cultures. At the same time, the migration of peoples, cultures and ideas from the Caribbean and Pacific to the United States changed the nation in visible and indelible ways. This presentation uses the lens of the American Imperium to frame a larger discussion on the art and cultures of Latin America and the Latinx community in the United States. From Cuban dictatorships to the massive immigration of Latinx peoples to the United States, U.S. foreign policies have had manifold effects, resulting in rich artistic artifacts produced and consumed for or against the American Empire.

Hartman, J.R. “Sacred Tree or Pillory? Urban Regeneration and Afro-Cuban Communities in Modern Havana.” Conference presentation for Exploring Creativity in Disadvantaged Urban Areas, First International Co-Creation Conference, University of Bath, England, September 14, 2017.

This talk addresses the symbolic role of the ceiba tree in the Parque de La Fraternidad Panamericana (Park of Pan-American Fraternity) in Havana, Cuba. In 1928, President Gerardo Machado and officials from twenty-one American nations planted a ceiba tree in the axial center of the recently regenerated park, as part of a ceremony to honor the Sixth Annual Pan-American Conference held that same year. The tree was a multivocal sign which spoke to multiple audiences of an “imagined community” in the Cuban capital. It visualized national and transnational solidarity among Cuba’s diverse citizenry and the wider hemispheric community. Many Cubans viewed the ceiba as symbolic of Havana and the nation more broadly, a pattern that goes back to the colonial period and continues today. Practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions perceived the tree as both sacred and ill-omened. The pomp and circumstance of the planting ceremony recalled ritual performances of the religions of the African diaspora in Cuba. Ceibas were likewise common features of plantations and urban plazas, often serving as whipping poles (or picotas) to punish criminals and African slaves. This paper will consider how the park’s regeneration, symbolized in the tree planting ceremony, activated a host of memories and experiences for the city’s marginalized communities. This history remains relevant today amid continued urban regeneration in Havana, as tourist infrastructure projects threaten to displace largely Afro-Cuban communities.

Hartman, J.R. Book project: The Dictator’s Dreamscape: Building Machado’s Cuba. Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming.

“The Dictator’s Dreamscape examines the legacy of nation building in Cuba and its cultural stakes in a wider hemispheric and global context during the twentieth century. The book focuses on the public works program of President Gerardo Machado y Morales (in power 1925-1933). Political histories often condemn Machado as a U.S.-backed dictator, overthrown in a labor revolt and popular revolution. Architectural histories tend to catalogue his regime’s public works as derivatives of U.S. and European models. The building campaign of the machadato (Machado’s regime) has yet to be viewed within the broader cultural context of twentieth-century Cuba. This book addresses that gap by reassessing the regime’s public works program as a visual project embedded in centuries-old representations of Cuba alongside wider debates on the nature of art and architecture in general, especially in regards to globalization and the spread of U.S.-style consumerism. In this discussion, the public works of the machadato articulated a forceful and highly nuanced politics of space, vision, and cultural experience aimed at both local and foreign audiences.”