Crowd Is the Street: Revitalizing Affective City-Space in Baixo Centro

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Maira MAGALHAES LOPES, Stockholm University, Sweden
Joel HIETANEN, Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University, Sweden
Jacob OSTBERG, Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University, Sweden
In 2011, some residents of São Paulo felt that the city was ‘closing down’ and advocating public policies they considered ‘far from humane’. Many of these residents were living or socializing in Baixo Centro (BxC, “Low Center” in English) area, which encompasses five neighborhoods of the city. Due the attractiveness of its central location, the area had increasingly become a target for real estate speculation. This had brought about ‘cleansing processes’ that have included the eviction of drug users that under the discursive guise of “Operation Crackland” (Cracolândia). Faced with these forms of policy enforcement, Baixo Centro Festival came into being. Thus in 2012, activist residents formed gatherings to prove that that region was “alive” and not in need of the aforementioned policy-based restructuring.

Borrowing from various movements of public street occupation, this public activism organized to become BxC, or a “collaborative, horizontal, independent and auto-managed street festival conducted by an open network of producers interested in reframing that region of São Paulo downtown area, around the Minhocão viaduct mostly known as “Big Worm” (Baixo Centro 2014). Initially, BxC actualized as more than 100 cultural activities during one week funded by online crowdsourcing campaigns. Since then the movement has splintered into two additional annual events as well as numerous other independent interventions throughout the year. Many of the participants have become part of other forms of collective action with numerous overlapping causes, such as popular housing as cultural heritage to public gardens. These collectives are emergent; they overlap, collaborate, oppose, and criticize each other while simultaneously reconnecting. Through creative imitation (Tarde 1903) across time and space, they continuously develop countervailing actions that have the potential to renegotiate the affective disposition and reappropriation of city-space. This paper presents early findings of the on-going research on this renegotiation process.