The Elite and the Urban Poor. Self-Segregation and Representations of Poverty in Upper-Class Neighborhoods of Three Metropolises: Paris, São Paulo and Delhi

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Bruno COUSIN , University of Lille 1, France
Camila GIORGETTI , Centre Maurice Halbwachs (CMH-ERIS), France
Jules NAUDET , Centre de Sciences Humaines (MAEE/CNRS), New Delhi, India
Serge PAUGAM , CNRS & EHESS, France
How do the inhabitants of the most privileged neighborhoods of big metropolises see the poor? How do they distance themselves (both physically and symbolically) from them? Can their representations of the urban poor be analyzed as part of traditional or neoliberal repertoires of action and justification? To answer these questions, our paper will be drawing on 240 in-depth interviews conducted in 2012 and 2013 with upper-class and upper-middle-class residents of the most socially selective areas (both in the inner-cities and in the suburbs) of Paris, São Paulo and New Delhi.

The history of the forms of domination, the structure of the elites, and the characteristics of welfare policies are indeed tightly linked to the ways the upper-classes produce, perceive and justify a city’s social-spatial order. Their representations of the poor – through frames, symbolic boundaries, logics of distinction and evaluation, narratives, etc. – are strongly influenced by the specificities of their country and of the metropolis they live in.

Therefore, on the basis of an international and inter-local comparative approach, we will present the differences between the cases studied. For each of them, we will also describe the particular articulation between five themes, whose possible mobilization as subjective reasons for self-segregation has been systematically tested in the interviews. These topics are: (1) insecurity and crime-exposure, (2) hygiene and the risks of contamination, (3) the attachment to a moral order that would need to be protected, (4) the naturalization (or racialization) of poverty, and (5) the various valuations of competition and merit vs. solidarity.

Our analysis shows how the rise of a neoliberal urban model, in Europe as well as in the Global South (in contexts characterized by the on-going displacement of the urban poor from the city centers), is also a matter of collective and individual meaning-making.