Teresa Caldeira on ‘Fortified Enclaves’

Source: Mr. Greenjeans

“Among the conditions necessary for democracy is that people acknowledge those from different social groups as cocitizens, i.e., as people having similar rights. If this is true, it is clear that contemporary cities which are segregated by fortified enclaves are not environments which generate conditions conducive to democracy. Rather, they foster inequality and the sense that different groups belong to separate universes and have irreconcilable claims. Cities of walls do not strengthen citizenship but rather contribute to its corrosion. Moreover, this effect does not depend either on the type of political regime or on the intentions of those in power, since the architecture of the enclaves entails by itself a certain social logic.”

— Teresa Caldeira in “Fortified Enclaves: The New Urban Segregation,” 1996

This is part of the Polis collection of quotes related to cities.

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  1. I haven't read the book from which the quote is taken but I would agree that fortified enclaves foster segregation, that's their intent. However, I'm not sold on the inequality argument.

    There may be vast differences in the quality of the neighborhoods between what's inside and outside the fortifications but that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that there is inequality between the peoples of those neighborhoods.

    Inequality in a democracy is related rights, opportunity, and the ability to participate equally in the democracy. Inequality is not an automatic result of self-segregating neighborhoods.

  2. Thank you for your comment! These are interesting ideas, and I do see how one could view equality as equal rights, opportunity, and participation in a democracy, however in general I do believe that gated communities reflect, reinforce and expand inequalities.

    I think the term "self-segregating neighborhoods" is misleading as it implies that the communities both inside and outside of the gate/wall mutually prefer segregation. In most cases it is only the community inside the gate that wishes to be removed and isolated. They have the financial means and political influence to make this wish a reality.

    In the case of extreme inequalities - in cities with gated communities as well as neighboring or nearby slums - I think the viewpoint is of slum residents (even in a democracy) not as co-citizens with similar rights but as sub-citizens or non-citizens. By defining this segregation spatially in the urban fabric, it facilitates and makes visible power imbalances, further embedding these inequalities in the public consciousness.

    In addition to unequal levels of income, I believe the opportunities available to residents within the same city vary greatly; this includes citizens of democratic governments. Even in a democracy, with money comes influence and freedom. Money does not always come from merit, in fact I think that is a noble aspiration but a tenuous connection at best.

    Like some, I see society and space as interconnected, and creating gated communities tends to restrict flows and exchanges of people while obstructing the formation of a healthy civil society, allowing those within the gates to determine the nature of their relationship with the wider city in a unilateral way.

  3. Is it possible to recognize equal citizenships and equal rights without recognizing equal opportunity? ie, do the fortress builders recognize that if their circumstances change, they might behave as they fear the poor would without a fortress?


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