Socially reproducing territory, producing solidarity: relational territorial praxis in Buenos Aires

In April 2018 Victoria Habermehl, co-presented with Liz Mason-Deese and Nick Clare in a series of sessions called: A feminist urban theory for our time: (3) counter hegemonic practices of reshaping the urban.

This presentation was based on research in Buenos Aires, that focused on social reproduction and territorial organising. The following abstract explains the focus of the presentation:

Recent social movements of the unemployed, migrant organising, and popular economies in Latin America have emphasized the political importance of territory for contemporary urban struggles (Stratta and Barrera 2009). These movements fundamentally challenge Eurocentric and statist territorialities, and the relational, contested character of their politics allows for new conceptualizations of urban territories themselves (Clare, Habermehl, and Mason-Deese 2017). Central to this territorial praxis and reconceptualization is a focus on social reproduction (Mason-Deese 2017). Drawing on extensive ethnographic research from across Greater Buenos Aires, this paper explores how distinct movements, organizations, and projects socially reproduce territory and the conflicts engendered in this process. We focus on unemployed workers’ movements in the urban periphery, migrant activity in ‘informal’ urban settlements, and a retail market organised on principles of economic solidarity and horizontalism. These cases demonstrate territorial organising as a relational process which is constructed through social relations in a particular place. A key element of this organising is the creation of autonomous practices of social reproduction, in which new, emergent subjectivities are formed. By drawing out the relationships between movements’ constructions of territory and their urban praxes of social reproduction, we make clear contributions to feminist urban theory, demonstrating the importance of solidarity practices, collaboration, and conflict to the construction of urban spaces. We also contribute to debates about geographies of social reproduction, through our focus on everyday territorial practices and the labor of social reproduction within movements.