Urban Social Inequality

Social Inequality, Spatialized Cultural Transformations and Life Trajectories. A Re-study of La Paz’s Urban Outskirts.

The persistence of deeply engrained social inequalities, is a problem that continues to occupy scholars in spite of numerous studies. In order to understand the complexity involved and combat growing inequalities, there is still a need for in-depth case studies from different perspectives. In this study I want to focus on enabling factors for social mobility, in a long-term perspective.

Bolivia is a country that has gone through profound social and political changes during the last two decades and according to the World Bank Group the rates of poverty and inequality have diminished. The project focuses on urban social inequality and transformations in La Paz, Bolivia from a qualitative and anthropological perspective. Structural, spatial and individual aspects will be taken in to consideration in order to understand how changes are perceived and acted upon from the marginalized individual’s point of view. The point of departure will be one of La Paz more peripheral neighborhoods, which I have been in contact with since 1990. The earlier studies (Widmark 2003; 2006) showed how difficult it was for the majority of young people to change their life situations in a short-term perspective, even if they had been given tools through education. They were exposed to an inequality that expressed itself in multidimensional and intersectional ways. The tactics of everyday life told us something about the way inequality was reproduced and contested.

The purpose of this project is to do a re-study in the same area after 20 years. Focusing on the way people conceive of change and what made it possible, taking into consideration structural changes and improved living conditions during the last ten years with Evo Morales’s government, it will reveal more about enduring inequality and what makes change possible. The following research questions will be investigated. What are the physical changes in the neighborhood and how do they affect people’s living conditions? What are the structural changes that affect people’s possibilities, such as child support, school fees, opportunities for education? Looking into individual life trajectories, how do people from scarce resources perceive of change? (focus on individuals of the age of 30-45).