توانمندسازی تجزیه و تحلیل : فرایند مداوم ایجاد روابط جامعه مدنی - دولت :بررسی موردی راه گردو در میلواکی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|5427||2010||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Geoforum, Volume 41, Issue 2, March 2010, Pages 337–348
Arguments regarding citizen involvement and empowerment within neoliberal urban politics are ample in geographic literature. Existing discussions often define and evaluate empowerment as either some social, political, or economic end-product of a specific event. Such singular conceptualization is problematic. First, different kinds of social, political, and economic changes can simultaneously empower/disempower communities in contradictory ways. In addition, the view of empowerment as an end-product of a present event obscures a more nuanced understanding of empowerment as an ongoing process of state–civil society relation-building. An in-depth assessment of such a process is only possible with reference to the past and the potential future occurrences. Elwood’s (2002) multi-dimensional conceptualization of empowerment recognizes the limitations of a singular definition of empowerment. However, it falls short of operationalizing empowerment as a temporal process with a historically and geographically contingent past, dynamic present, and future in the making. Therefore, in this paper I expand on Elwood’s framework to show how a process-based view as opposed to a narrow end-product-based or event-based one can provide a deeper understanding of state–civil society interaction and community empowerment. This paper analyzes the interaction between the City of Milwaukee, the residents of a predominantly black inner-city neighborhood, the Walnut Way, and their community organization, the Walnut Way Conservation Corp. within a land-use dispute related to the development of a park space into a housing project. Using data collected through semi-structured in-depth interviews, archival research, and participant observation, this paper emphasizes that despite methodological limitations of collecting long-term data, community empowerment can and should be studied as a process with reference to the past, present, and potential future state–civil society interactions.
In early 2004 the City1 of Milwaukee issued a request for proposals (RFP) expressing its intentions to create a new subdivision on a City-owned park located within one of its predominantly African-American inner-city neighborhoods, the Walnut Way. By March the project was awarded to the Josey Heights Development Partners LLC, and the City officially declared its plan to build 53 market-rate homes on this public green space (DCD, 2004). Popularly known as the Lloyd St. Playfield or Park, this neighborhood green space was originally a single-family residential area that had been torn down by the City almost 40 years earlier to make way for freeway construction. Citizen protests had stopped the construction of this proposed freeway. In the 1980s this fallow land was developed into a neighborhood park which provided the area residents a place for relaxation and socialization. So, when the news about the park being developed into a housing project (the Josey Heights Development) became public, residents of Walnut Way and neighboring areas reacted negatively. As such, one newspaper article reported: “As open space goes, it’s not fancy. Just a flat, green field with soccer goals at each end. But to some of its central city neighbors, the seven acre swath bordered by W. Lloyd, W. Brown, N. 12th and N. 14th streets is their little patch of serenity. And they’re not about to surrender it to a new housing development without a fight.” (Gould, 2004) However, the “fight” put up by a handful of Milwaukee’s inner-city residents to save one of their few well-maintained and easily-accessible green spaces proved to be too weak in the face of the City’s entrepreneurial plans (Harvey, 1989, Norquist, 1998 and Kenny and Zimmerman, 2004). The Walnut Way Conservation Corp. (henceforth WWCC), a budding and active resident-led neighborhood organization also failed to protect Walnut Way residents’ demands. The organization opted to support the City’s agenda. The residents’ plea to the City “to preserve Lloyd Park as a park, rather than sell it for development” (Friends of Lloyd Park, 2004a) fell on deaf ears and an already underserved inner-city neighborhood (Public.Policy Forum, 2002 and Heynen et al., 2006) lost another of its green spaces. This is not an uncommon story. Examples of state–civil society or City–community struggle over land-use in general (Martin, 2004) and open green spaces in particular (Smith and Kurtz, 2003) are widespread in the US, especially under the present trend of urban renewal and economic revitalization efforts. The majority of those stories end with the business-minded City claiming yet more victories, stifling the community demands of democratic land-use decision-making and civic empowerment, and so does this one. If we envision empowerment as some end-product either gained or lost by the civil society as a result of a specific event, the above case will appear to be a fairly common one of civil society’s disempowerment and co-optation into the more powerful political–economic structure. Existing literature on neoliberal urban governance and state–civil society relations often characterizes empowerment as such an end-product; a final social, economic or political condition, or a material good either won or lost as a result of a single event or action. I call this the event-based or end-product-based assessment of empowerment. This conceptualization of empowerment fails to reveal its full complexity as a continuing process of negotiation for greater power; a process of relation-building that cannot be fully assessed without reference to the past and the potential future. Focusing only on a present event can obscure our evaluation of such City–community interaction. Thus, in this paper I emphasize the need to mobilize a process-based conceptualization of empowerment. The literature on state–civil society2 relationships seems to offer multiple and often contradictory theories. Some scholars view the rise of civil society3 through an emerging non-profit/voluntary sector as empowering and beneficial for communities; many others consider it to be rather disempowering. However, very few have attempted to analyze critically the concept of empowerment. Questions about definition(s), nature, and assessment of empowerment seem to remain largely unaddressed in geographic studies. The limited work that exists focuses on singular definitions based on substantive typologies of empowerment (McClendon, 1993, Lake, 1994 and Rocha, 1997) as either some socio-political, economic, or environmental condition/end-product necessary for the enhancement of community wellbeing. In reality, however, civic empowerment may consist of multiple dimensions leading to contradictory changes in the state–civil society power relation. Recognizing the limitations of such singular definitions Elwood (2002) has provided a multi-dimensional framework of analysis that enables us to focus simultaneously on different substantive aspects of empowerment that may occur through distributive, procedural, and capacity-building related changes (I provide a detailed description of these multiple dimensions of empowerment as portrayed by Elwood in the next section). While this provides a strong starting point for assessing community empowerment, a discussion of empowerment as a temporal process that is embedded within the continuum of the past, present, and the future could further strengthen Elwood’s framework. Evaluating empowerment along such a temporal continuum can enhance our ability to be simultaneously sympathetic towards community achievements and critical about the pseudo-achievements that can easily be misinterpreted as means of community empowerment. In this paper, therefore, I attempt to build on Elwood’s work by emphasizing the temporal nature of the process of becoming empowered. I explore the contestation and negotiation among the residents of Walnut Way, their local neighborhood organization, the WWCC, and the City around the event of Josey Heights Development on Lloyd St. Park. Based on this analysis I argue that empowerment for civic organizations, like the WWCC, and by extension their constituent communities, is an ongoing process with a historically and geographically contingent past, a dynamic present, and a future in the making. As such, past state–civil society relations, present strengths and weaknesses within such relations, and future speculations and expectations, all play a crucial role in molding the process of negotiating empowerment. Hence, we should be wary of describing a community’s empowerment or disempowerment as a final state and assess state–civil society interaction through a temporal lens. This will add clarity to our understanding of the complex nature of empowerment. Also, by being more perceptive towards past, present and future state–community interaction, a temporal analysis of empowerment may potentially overcome the hegemonic representation of the all-powerful neoliberal state. Therein lays the significance of broadening Elwood’s multi-dimensional analysis of empowerment simultaneously into a temporal process-oriented one.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Empowerment is a complex idea that relates to the acquisition of power to affect important socio-political processes and decisions for one’s own wellbeing and betterment. As such, the inherent inequality of power relations between the market-driven state and the civil society, especially within the present neoliberal political-economy, always raises questions in our minds: who has the power to make important decisions? Is the increasing number of community efforts really making a difference in the existing power relations between the state and the civil society? We have had compelling and contradicting discussions around these issues. For instance, Elwood acknowledges that rising engagement of the civil society within present governance is “an important basis from which to seek expansion of the autonomy and influence of citizens and community organizations in spatial decision-making processes that shape their communities” (2004, p. 767). Yet there is a significant degree of skepticism regarding the real “autonomy” gained by such civic engagement. Swyngedouw argues that these new forms of collaborative governance ultimately prove to be “the Trojan Horse that diffuses and consolidates the ‘market’ as the principal institutional form” (2005, p. 2003), further disempowering the civil society. Along similar lines, many recognize the hegemonic power of the neoliberal political-economy that eventually molds and utilizes civic agents as the “shadow state” or the “roll-out neoliberal hardwares” reinforcing the existing unequal power relations (Wolch, 1990 and Pudup, 2008). Such pessimism is not completely unfounded. However, these analyses largely tend to portray civic organizations as pawns in the hands of the neoliberal agencies foreclosing debates around entrepreneurial state and community relationships. A relatively balanced and optimistic view is provided by Leitner et al. (2007). They elaborate that urban spaces are shaped by a constant interaction between the broader neoliberal political-economy and its contestations represented by the state/market agencies and the civil society respectively. The authors agree that such interaction risks co-optation. But parallel to the fear that civic organizations, like the WWCC, may easily get co-opted within the dominant political–economic order, the authors also insist that these organizations are themselves capable of absorbing, redefining, rewriting neoliberal agendas. I think this is an extremely important point because it provides a means to challenge the discourse of the hegemonic power of neoliberalism. It draws attention to the potential capacity and agency of the civil society despite its disadvantageous position within the market-oriented political–economic system. Once during an informal chat, RB, a WWCC leader commented, “(H)ow do you eat an elephant? A little by little.” Here “eating an elephant” reflects the organization’s desire to establish a trusting relationship with the City in order to gain future community empowerment. This remark portrays the long-term vision embedded in the organization’s present decision to intentionally and strategically embark on the journey to build a relationship with the City through cooperation and not opposition. This shows how a civil society group might have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of its situation and knows exactly how to manipulate those situations for its own and the community’s benefit in strategic ways. When asked about the benefits of supporting the City, a WWCC leader said, “(O)ne, we have a very good relationship with a developer and for a grassroots community group that’s very useful…networks, very important…the relationships. Our relationship with the City has been strengthened.” (Interviewee RB, interview February 2007) This statement reflects the significance of “relationships” for community-based organizations and their empowerment. For building such a “relationship” for the future benefit of the community, the WWCC seemed more than willing to make some compromises at the present time. These compromises brought about significant changes in the City–community relationship with respect to the past. We are likely to see such compromises as the civil society’s disempowerment and misguided cooperation with neoliberalism if we focus only on the Josey Heights event. However, a consideration of the past and the emerging trends related to the City–WWCC/Walnut Way interaction allows a different interpretation of the community’s empowerment. First, it points to empowerment as an ongoing process, which makes it difficult and even impractical to permanently characterize Walnut Way or the WWCC and other similar community efforts as either empowered or disempowered. In addition, a process-based view makes it easier to identify the failures as well as, and perhaps more importantly, the achievements of the community efforts. Such achievements might not be grand, yet are worth recognizing. It is often the collective impact of minor civic achievements that lead to significant changes in the neoliberal landscape. This is not to say that we should be uncritical of WWCC’s motive to support the City, nor should we take for granted that the organization’s compromise will necessarily result in the organization’s and the community’s greater empowerment in the long run. The point is to emphasize that reading empowerment as a process of relation-building and assessing it along the past–present–future continuum can potentially overcome the “hopelessness generated by monolithic accounts of the ‘neoliberal project’ (Larner, 2003, p. 512). Evaluating empowerment as an end-product of a present event leads us to assign a permanent status to a civic agent as empowered or disempowered. When such events involve a degree of cooperation with the state agencies, community efforts are quickly relegated to a status of being co-opted. In contrast, a process-based analysis of empowerment as discussed above shows how considering the changes from the past and the possibilities of the future provides a different and often broader understanding of a present event. It shows how certain cooperative compromises at the present may signify important changes from the past and promise greater authority in the future in favor of the civil society. Thus, a process-based analysis of empowerment reveals intricacies that might be easily overlooked or misinterpreted in an end-product based analysis of empowerment. Specifically, a process-based reading of empowerment makes us more perceptive of the agency and capability of civic agents to challenge and redefine the apparently omnipotent neoliberal agendas of the state authorities. Methodologically, we are constrained by the difficulty of collecting long-term empirical data and tracing future trends. I understand that this is the primary reason for a lack of temporal analysis of empowerment. But despite such methodological limitation it is possible to contextualize the accounts of a present event with respect to the past state–community relations, future expectations, and already emerging trends, as has been done in this paper. Thus, incorporating a temporal lens in Elwood’s multi-dimensional framework adds clarity to our knowledge of empowerment as an ongoing process of building state–civil society relations. Further, it enables us to disrupt current understanding of the inevitability of civil society’s co-optation within the neoliberal political-economy.