A Journey Through La Barceloneta: Neighbours and the Changing Cultural Identity of Barcelona’s Beach Suburb

Abstract

This paper explores the shifting urban and cultural transformation of one of Barcelona’s most iconic suburbs: la Barceloneta. Targeted by mass tourism, real estate speculation and measures allowing for the privatization of public space, this seaside neighbourhood risks becoming one more example of the historic city reduced to a mere exhibition to be visited, not lived in (Lefebvre, 1969). This has sparked a heated debate between different agents about who benefits from such changes considering that the atmosphere of a city is a collective work of its dwellers, from which some make a profit. At the same time, la Barceloneta has remained a workingclass area with a strong sense of place identity, moving residents to take collective action against policies which often ignore their complex social realities and affective entanglements and also erode the historic heritage of the neighbourhood. Understanding urban space as “a meeting place of jostling, potentially conflicting, trajectories” (Massey, 2007, p. 89), I will draw on a plurality of voices from which the neighbourhood is being imagined: from media narratives that fix its meaning in order to market it, to neighbours’ lived experiences, to actions organized by urban social movements to claim the right to the city. This exposes the contradictions between the suburb as represented, promoted and visited and the suburb as inhabited. I argue that local contests over suburbs like la Barceloneta matter because progressive place-based politics can expose how deep socioeconomic transformations are made under the guise of urban restructuring and service-oriented cities.



Author Information
Sílvia Juventeny Berdún, Independent researcher, Spain

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2016
Stream: Culture, Popular Culture and Cultural Studies

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