Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Sharon Zukin

Committee Members

Sujatha Fernandes

Philip Kasinitz

Ryan Centner

Subject Categories



Buenos Aires; Gentrification; Local politics; Urban policy; Urban restructuring


As cities transition from industrial to post-industrial forms of development, new activities based on leisure and entertainment have come to comprise a greater share of urban economic growth. Drawing upon 10 months of qualitative fieldwork, this research examines the emergence of new urban policies, increasingly reliant on cultural and touristic production, which gained importance in Buenos Aires after Argentina's devastating 2001-2002 economic crisis. Through interviews and fieldwork with policymakers, everyday cultural producers, and the urban poor situated at the margins of these changes, the dissertation seeks to illuminate how local officials reconceived of culture as a form of economic development and object of government innovation during a period of parsimonious state budgets. While culture represented a significant growth sector for attracting investment, residents, and visitors to formerly disinvested areas of the city, it also channeled local forms of cultural production into more marketable and tourist-friendly forms. In the process, city government policies both reshaped and reinforced existing aspects of local stratification.

From the level of urban governance, policies focused on culture, creativity, and -- most recently -- sustainability, have been framed by the local state as generating inclusion and territorial equality, yet have often resulted in higher land values and the displacement of informal workers from central spaces of the city. In examining these state-led strategies and the responses of everyday residents, two important aspects of the post-industrial urban economy, operating within a prominent city of the global South, emerge.

First, there is a rapid process of institutional learning taking place at the local level, suggesting the mobility of urban policies, actors, and paradigms. The adoption of these "global" policies is power-laden, catalyzed by multi-lateral institutions and transnational NGOs, representing the exigencies of competitive city strategies, rather than the random "assemblage" of urban discourses and imaginaries. Second, a state-led emphasis on cultural and touristic production has transformed historically disinvested neighborhoods in the city's south, remaking them as sites of heritage, tourism, and tradition. Yet a mostly commercial process of reinvestment suggests that the rigidity of social and class stratification in Buenos Aires may limit residential gentrification and channel development into tourist-based projects. These particular modalities of redevelopment, while potentially forestalling mass residential displacement, nonetheless propel neoliberal strategies of urban growth.

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