Elites of São Paulo and Their Varied Relationships with Public Space

Friday, July 18, 2014: 7:10 PM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Carolina REQUENA , Political Science, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Telma HOYLER , Political Science, Centro de Estudos da Metropole (CEM/Cebrap), São Paulo, Brazil
The paper examines specific areas in São Paulo where elites cohabit with poorer populations and investigates the different ways they mediate this physical proximity. Our findings indicate that the relationships emerging from these dynamics vary from complete appropriation of public space by the elites to negotiation with other cohabiting social groups.

Until the 1970s, São Paulo’s elites lived in the center of the city. Although they were one of the actors in the metropolis’ macro-segregation configuration, the local literature traditionally emphasized the formation of urban peripheries inhabited homogeneously by poor populations. Recently, however, both quantitative and qualitative research have eloquently pointed to heterogeneous living spaces in São Paulo, indicating that portions of the elite have scattered throughout the metropolis, while others have stayed in the center.

The elite´s varied choices of housing location since the 1980s led to different impacts on public space: some of the groups have closed streets with gates and walls; others have banned sidewalks, and so forth. At the same time, some of the groups that stayed in the center have not materially sealed off contact with other social groups. Therefore, our aim is to understand how elites view contact with other populations and which role public space plays in the establishment or avoidance of such contact.

We take three methodological steps: (a) using Geographic Information System, we select areas that are inhabited by the 10% richer extract of the population according to the 2010 Census data, provided that these areas also contain poorer populations; (b) conduct and analyze in-depth interviews with members of the elites and label them into groups according to shared lifestyles, as well as social, political and economic insertion; and (c) proceed to describe the relationship each elite group establishes with neighboring populations, focusing on the role of public space.