1. Socio-environmental disputes, stakeholders, interests and identities

Thematic Area Coordinator: Hugo Romero - hugo.romero@mail.udp.cl

The increasing development of large territories in Latin America and the growth of extractive activities to fund the expansion of the global economy have generated rapid socio-environmental transformations throughout the continent.

Major investment projects in mining, energy and agriculture have specialized regions in the large- scale exploitation of resources in order to generate economic growth and decrease poverty. The international literature has documented the emergence of social resistance to those changes, highlighting the enormous environmental and social degradation that has taken place and the emergence of different identities and rationalities that question the idea that extraction as the path to development.  These forms of resistance come from the rural population, including indigenous and campesinos groups that use different resources and environments on a daily basis, as also come from an urban population developing environmental conservation discourses and practices at a global scale.  

Socio-environmental conflicts emerge as a network of disputes with historical, ethnic, cultural, geo-political and environmental content that go beyond the limits of a specific investment project and connect territories and cultures that appear to be different and removed from one another.


The questions to be addressed in this conference thematic area are:

  • What are socio-environmental conflicts and what are their territorial dimensions?
  • What types of identities have emerged and/or have been transformed through socio-environmental conflicts? On what scale are these transformations taking place?
  • To what degree and how have situations in extraction territories intensified pre-existing social conflicts and what is the nature of the relationships that exist between the communities, government and companies?
  • What types of resources, stakeholders and interests are in dispute regarding access and control to natural resources and how are they related to specific projects?
  • What theoretical and methodological approaches are being built to confront, study, and understand socio-environmental conflicts?
2. Territorial impacts of segregation, gentrification and inequality

Thematic Area Coordinator: Ernesto López - elopez@uchilefau.cl

Over the past few decades, Chile’s privately-led housing production relies on an increasing demand subsidized by the state. On the one hand, private social housing developers invest in areas where land values are lower thus construction-related revenues are higher.

However, this cheap housing supply usually draws on deficient transport connectivity, lower quality of public goods and services, and socio-environmental risks, therefore amassing future social conflicts. On the other hand, middle and upper- middle class-oriented developers, also indirectly subsidized by the state, prefer central or recentralized areas where land and housing prices noticeably increase due to the growing demand and better environmental quality and centrality of these neighbourhoods.

This second type of housing market reinforces traditional patterns of social segregation and exclusion, gentrify central and peripheral neighbourhoods, and increment existing levels of housing debt among households. Some local commentators even ask whether Chile currently experiences a real estate bubble and what type of bubble this might be.

Besides, Chile’s main cities (like many others in Latin America) currently undergo a back-to-the-city movement, a growing presence of real estate capital vis-à-vis an increasing number of international low-income immigrants. There are also rising social demands for heritage conservation and social participation in governance and decision-making, and new mobility and transport demands, among other factors.  In the changing context of Chilean and Latin American cities, the COES conference proposes the following questions:

  • What new urban and neighborhood transformations emerge based on the most recent economics changes experienced in Chile and Latin America? Are these transformations also related to the new forms of urban development promoted by the public sector?
  • Are there new types of segregation, gentrification and inequality experienced in today’s cities, districts and neighborhoods of the continent?
  • How do these new forms relate to emerging social conflicts and demands for social cohesion, and what new social actors emerge from them?
  • What importance does the international migration have in processes of urban- and neighborhood-level spatial change, in relation to segregation, gentrification and inequality?
  • Is there a correlation between land valorization of certain areas and the different forms of state-led urban land regulation, that explain recent socio-spatial urban changes?
  • What role have the state and its policies played on urban change regulation and current housing production processes? What kinds of territorial impacts have they had?
3. Institutional structure, territorial governance and social movements

Thematic Area Coordinator: Matías Garretón - matias.garreton@uai.cl

Conflicts may generate gradual changes due to the fact that processes and stakeholders confronted in a specific space and time continually renegotiate their reciprocal power relations, restructuring action arenas and the behavior of the agents in a system of governance (Giddens, 1984; Orstrom, 2005).

In this sense, it is necessary to understand the importance of the territorial dimension in the transformation of government institutions at different administrative levels. In multi-level governance systems, the regulation between common interests and market interests acquires greater spatial complexity due to the scalar diversity of decision-making processes (Le Galés, 1999).

As such, the interpretation of the common good at different levels can be contradictory, as in addition, the current situation of social conflict and its relationship to cities and territories is linked to increasing questions regarding the country’s institutional structure. Specifically, these different levels and categories of political mandates are tightly interwoven in urban systems and territorial contexts of varied sizes and forms in which national, regional and district-level authorities overlap.

An increasingly organized civil society has growing impacts on disputes related to its wellbeing, environmental and symbolic space, and there are incipient responses of integration or at least attempts to approach these emerging representations of the governance of public policies.  This process are accompanied by both successful and failed attempts at developing new methodologies, mechanisms and tools that allow for new and necessary associations for cooperation.  From this perspective, it seems timely to put forth the following questions:

  • How do the territory and the size of its electorate influence the objectives and design of public policies depending on the levels of elected authorities, and their promises?
  • What set of urban and territorial regulation instruments tends to resolve conflicts on different scales and what impacts do they have on the balance between public and private interests? What is the importance and effectiveness of citizen participation in them?
  • Do the diverse experiences of citizen participation actually establish a relationship between the quality of public policies and social cohesion?
  • What is the significance of space in the articulation and mechanisms of action of social movements? How do manifestations perform in space and relate to a territorial dimension?
  • To what extent does the current crisis of governance and trust demand new designs of institutions, territorial definitions and planning concepts?
  • Considering the complexity of territorial phenomena, what are the challenges for implementing public-private cooperation and participatory mechanisms for the planning, management and territorial development?
  • How are environmental impacts, the creation of value and consumption of incomes distributed among Chile’s regions? How can knowledge of these processes contribute to the design of systems of governance that promote balanced development of territories?
4. Urban-territorial conflict and Everyday life

Thematic Area Coordinator: Felipe Link - felipe.link@uc.cl

The daily urban experience establishes an interlocking of the political, economic, social and symbolic life of societies and their transformations.

The study of urban and territorial conflicts from the daily and micro-social perspective thus contains a particular angle of understanding structural and even global processes.  The relationship that Lefebvre (1971) proposed between structural and temporary factors in the production of space associated with a complex understanding of conceived, practiced, and material space, seems to become newly relevant, particularly given the process of development that permeates the logics of daily life and its tactics and strategies on different scales (De Certeau, 1999).

In this context of transformation of the urban condition itself (Mongin, 2006), social conflicts also acquire a new dimension.  Forms of urban sociability are changed (Ascher, 2001), and conflicts emerge over the various dimensions of the individual’s right to realize him or herself in the space of the city and the constitution of society in the daily and public space.  The street, neighborhood and public space emerge as scales of interest for understanding the contemporary transformation of social relations.  Some of the questions that will guide this conference session are:

  • In what senses and forms are identity, belonging, roots, authenticity, individualization, unrest, violence and other elements essential aspects of methodological approaches to understanding the micro-macro relationship of urban-territorial processes?
  • Are the neighborhood and the street productive analytical categories for urban studies? How are methodologies for their conceptual and measurement definitions established?
  • What influence do urban and local social movements have on the creation of the neighborhood/public space? How do their approaches change based on the different stakeholders related to those variables that intervene in the production of the daily space?
  • How has sociability in contemporary cities changed based on the ways in which their formal and economic characteristics relate to those changes? What consequences does this have for social conflict and cohesion?  What is the contemporary dimension of public space in the constitution of the urban condition?  What are the roles of planning, public policies and social programs and investments in these configurations and their results?
  • What impacts does the form of contemporary urban development have on individuality and subjectivity (densification, verticalization, urban fragmentation, etc.)?