Browsing by Subject "social and Public Policy, Faculty of Social Sciences"

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  • Boonjubun, Chaitawat (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Urban poverty remains persistent. Both the housing and employment needs of the urban poor remain key features of this social problem. Existing research has tended to explain these conditions as a function of the concentration of capital and the exploitation of labour. These are necessary, but they leave out a crucial element: urban land. The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to close this loop. Drawing on the urban land approach pioneered by Anne Haila (1988; 2016), this dissertation provides a discussion about land, not only as an explanation but also as a contributory current to ameliorating urban poverty. To do so, the dissertation examines three types of urban land—public land, private land, and religious land—and attempts to answer the following research questions: what are the urban problems concerning the uses of each land type by the poor?; why do these problems persist?; and how can they be addressed? To answer these questions, empirical materials were collected through interviewing diverse local actors; observing land use practices; and analysing official documents including laws, regulations, policies, and plans. This dissertation focuses on the interrelated notions of the right to land, the regulatory and licensing systems of public land, urban informality, gated communities, and the urban commons. Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, provides the context for the empirical part of this research. In addition, this dissertation includes an analysis of the uses of Buddhist temple land in other Thai cities to show different characteristics of the Thai urban land system and how it can instantiate one way of enhancing the livelihoods of the urban poor. The main body of the dissertation consists of three articles. Each article investigates the uses of each land type—and the findings in these three articles flesh out the arguments, making up the substance of this dissertation. The first article analyses the goals, practices, and effects of a street clearance plan by the city government of Bangkok. Published in Cities, the article discusses street vendors' rights, property claims, conflicting interests, and varied survival strategies for coping with the eviction that affected the vendors’ lives and livelihood. The second article concerns gated communities in Bangkok. This article, published in Social Sciences, develops a context-specific conceptualisation of gating. In contrast to the prototypical Western concept of gated communities—which holds that gated communities are enclosed private residential space built exclusively for the middle class, while the poor are found in ‘informal’ settlements—the article shows the diversification of gated communities. It points out that gated communities are not only spatially constructed but also socially constructed. That is also the aim of the third article of this dissertation, accepted for publication by The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Buddhist temples are built on a type of land where the property relations are quite distinct from both private and public land systems. Do such alternative systems of urban land tenure produce different urban forms from those of private and public tenure systems? Drawing on original data collected from Thai cities, this appears to be the case. Thai Sangha law prohibits temples from selling their land. This religious land, then, is inalienable, acting as ‘urban commons’. The results of this dissertation are summarised as follows. Firstly, the study of a city government’s plan to reorganise public land aimed at removing street vending activities from streets and using these socially ‘purified’ streets as a magnet for attracting investors and tourists unmasks the harmful effects of implementing spatial order and discipline. Street vendors were evicted, tensions between the vendors and city authorities increased, and streets became unsafe. Secondly, in examining the uses of private land, the dissertation discusses residential segregation by income and the proliferation of gated communities in Bangkok. The findings illustrate that there exist gated communities in which the urban poor are the residents; amenities and club services in gated communities are available to non-residents as well; and, the residents of gated communities seek contact and socialise with outsiders. Thirdly, the results of the empirical study on the uses of religious land demonstrate a radically different urban form. While still maintaining their role as ‘landlords’, Thai Buddhist temple caretakers are not utility-maximising. Instead, they maintain their role as social and communal landlords by leasing their land for the urban poor to use for housing, vending, and farming with nominal rents being charged. In turn, in temple urban spaces, where the moral aspect of religious land and ethical considerations on land prevail, social marginalisation is minimal. Indeed, not only are residents decently housed, their livelihoods are far more certain and rewarding. This dissertation argues that how urban land in Bangkok is currently used is overbearingly based on exchange value rather than use value. Laws and regulations concerning land and real estate development have prioritised the development of private land over the uses of land for wealth and income redistribution and poverty eradication. Moreover, as this study shows, in managing the urban land, the city government of Bangkok has apparently failed to treat public land as a public good. These are forces that have led to the persistence of urban poverty, wealth and income inequalities, and marginalisation of the poor, which together represent the pressing urban problems concerning the uses of urban land by poor people. This dissertation calls for a type of urban policy that takes into consideration the rights, interests, and livelihoods of public land users and their contributions to the city. It also questions the usefulness of the Western gated community concept and points to the importance of emphasising local and historical conditions concerning land and housing development, highlighting social norms and practices, and zooming in on socio-spatial characteristics of the neighbourhood in which gated communities are situated when analysing enclosed residential spaces and the social relations in and around them. While clearly still problematic in the sense that gating creates a spatial tension between ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’, a contrast which is often resolved by emphasising the former over the latter, appreciating local nuances within a wider global context can pave the way for alternatives. This dissertation encourages urban scholars to investigate further the existing types of urban land (non-private forms of urban land tenure such as communal land, collectively owned land, and other types of religious land) in other cities, which could be considered as alternatives to land commodification and financialisation.