HKU GEOGRAPHY: Monthly Research Talks
¿Quién es Gentrificación (Who is Gentrification)? Urban Change, Conceptual Chimerae, and the Challenge of Blanqueamiento (‘Whitening’) in Mexico City
Date: 20 OCT 2023 (Friday)
Time: 15:00-15:15 (HKT)
(No registration required)
In this article, we outline the central tenets of an endogenous theory of neighborhood change in Mexico City known as blanqueamiento ('whitening'). Drawing on longstanding research and intellectual exchange with local scholars and activists, we illustrate the promise this concept holds for transcending the many limitations of 'gentrification', and its metaphrase translation, gentrificación, in this and other contexts. We argue that while blanqueamiento and similar theories from outside the Global North often face extreme difficulties in emergence, their value to both critical scholarship and urban politics can be profound, and should be more fully explored and recognized. We demonstrate this value in Mexico City through an exploration of this concept’s core meanings and expressions, specifically in the areas of: 1) belonging, displacement, and racialized aesthetics; 2) architecture, design, and globalizing aesthetics; and 3) finance, money laundering, and the insidious complicity of aestheticized consumption. In support of our overall argument about the need for more productive urban exchanges and the critical co-production of knowledge on the topic of urban change through translation, we bring together insights from ongoing debates on the nature and uses of gentrification in contemporary cities and the politics of theory-making and conceptualization in geography and urban studies across the globe.
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, HKU
Dr. Gerlofs works at the intersection of urban, cultural, political, and historical geography. His current projects are concentrated around three major foci: 1) the political economy of urbanization in historical perspective; 2) the dynamics of contemporary urban social movements; and 3) processes related to neighborhood change, including but not limited to gentrification. Much of his work has explored these issues in the dynamic hyper-metropolis that is Mexico City—the most populous urban area in the western hemisphere—whose historic neighborhoods are being demographically and aesthetically altered at an incredible rate, and whose systems of governance are on the edge of wholesale renovation as the city sheds the guise of the Federal District and is reborn as the State of Mexico City for the first time since the Mexican Revolution. His current book project, Monstrous Politics: Geography, Rights, and the Urban Revolution in Mexico City, interrogates the multivalent transformations of the Mexican capital from the last years of the Porfiriato to the present, and he is in the process of developing new comparative urban research based in Hong Kong.