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Title:Imagination in the public domain: The case of the homeless workers movement (MTST) in São Paulo, Brazil
Author(s):Roldan, Aline Mazeto
Advisor(s):Miraftab, Faranak
Contributor(s):Freitas, Clarissa
Department / Program:Urban & Regional Planning
Discipline:Urban Planning
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MTST, Homeless Workers Movement
São Paulo
New Social Movements
Grassroots Movements
Urban Policies
City Statute
Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida
Land Occupations
Land Squatting
Community Organizing
Insurgent Planning
Radical Planning
Inhumane Urbanism
Humane Urbanism
Colonization of the Imagination
Colonization of the Future
Invisible City
Urban Utopianism
Urban Future
City Palimpsest
Social Learning
Triple Loop of Learning
Theory U.
Abstract:The foundational stone of radical planning, Knowledge and Action in the Public Domain (Friedmann, 1987), focused on the connection between reason and democracy based on the concepts of the single and double loop of learning. In this thesis, I start a conversation about the meaning, use, and application of a triple loop of learning to planning theory and practice by focusing on the connection between imagination and democracy. Toward that goal, I integrate the ideas of future as a source of learning (Scharmer, 2009) and future as a space of struggle between the opening up and closing down of the imagination (Miraftab, 2018). I ask how planners can unleash the collective imagination towards the flourishing of more humane urban futures. This thesis seeks to answer this question through the ethnographic case study of the grassroots housing Homeless Workers Movement (MTST ─ Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto) in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area, Brazil. Field data was collected in December 2016 and January 2017 through in-person interviews, focus groups, content analysis of local news media and MTST’s documents, and participant observation of land occupations and meetings. Two conceptual poles guide this research: first, understanding future as a spatiotemporal layer in the city palimpsest. This means a set of images of the future ─ in tension with each other and with memories of the past and possibilities of present ─ that functions as a disciplinary instrument orchestrating planning. Second, understanding collective imagination as a dynamic tensegrity ─ a concept borrowed from architecture and applied in psychology and organizational studies ─ to indicate the mobile tensional arrangement of interconnected memories, present possibilities, and future projections. Reflecting on the case of Sao Paulo and its formal planning processes, I show how contemporary city planning has systematically contributed to making territories, people, and futures invisible via processes that close down certain kinds of futures and imagination of alternatives. In contrast, by documenting MTST activists’ practices and testimonials, I show how insurgent practices make territories (space) visible, make people visible to themselves (identities), and, to a certain extent, make the future visible (vision) through processes that open up the imagination of alternative futures for a more humane urbanism. This binary structure is only partially applicable; the tension between these complex processes ─ the opening up and closing down of the imagination ─ is present in both insurgent and conventional planning settings. Rather than proposing a blueprint for practice, this research is an initial inquiry to problematize imagination in city planning. This thesis reframes imagination from being an individual trait, or the automatic outcome of the democratic process, to a spatially and socially circumscribed process engaging three dimensions of space, identity, and vision, in three layers (past, present, and future). I propose that unleashing the collective imagination is a key aspect of the planner’s role of mediation for social learning. Further collaborative and interdisciplinary research on the intricate connection between imagination and democracy would bring great value for planning theory and practice. We need to move beyond hope, imagining new horizons that do not reproduce the grammar of the present into the future, but instead reinvent unique humane compositions of past-present-future possibilities.
Issue Date:2018-04-10
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Aline Mazeto Roldan
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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