"The Mallification of a city: Unraveling the negotiation and construction of social class and cultural difference in urban spaces of Puebla, a Mexican metropolis"
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kummels (FU Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Carlos Alba Vega (El Colegio de México)
The definition of the term mallification found in online dictionaries as ’transformation into a (shopping) mall’. The question this brings up is: Transformation of what? Of a certain space in the city? Or of a whole city? What does this transformation entail for the constitution of urban space and its residents?
The mallification of cities is a global phenomenon that has transformed the urban landscape into a division into homogenized spaces throughout the last decades. The fact that these shopping malls often serve as the space and venue for social conflicts is well known and a frequent subject in the press and other media. The increasing usage of the term mallifcation itself demonstrates the importance of shopping malls in urban societies as they transform our everyday life in cities. Nowadays, the worldwide number of malls seems countless. They offer a space where everybody, no matter where they are from, knows their way around and they may currently be one of the most prominent physical representations of spaces of globalization and urbanity. Mexico especially seems to offer a fertile ground for the success of malls as they offer a presumably much needed safe and prestigious space for social encounter.
For a better understanding of the topic, it is important to take a look at the specific constitution of Latin American or rather Mexican Cities. This alludes to the importance of public spaces in Mexican cities where the central plaza pública, the so-called Zócalo, is the traditional central public meeting point with a tradition that goes back to pre-colonial times. The beneficiary interests on the part of the social actors concerning malls in Mexican cities are different from other urban contexts because of the importance of public places in Mexican culture. Considering this fact makes it clear that the socio-spatial practices concerning the mall in a Mexican city need to be looked at distinctively.
My research project aims to investigate how the emergence of shopping malls in Puebla and the resulting use and appropriation of these central spaces by social actors has changed the urban landscape. I argue that shopping malls are not only centers for consumption, but also important spaces for social encounters, the construction of a social identity and social life. Even more importantly, they appear to be the most prominent urban spaces to negotiate social affiliations via discourses of insecurity, globalization, and prestige. Furthermore, they are spaces where the dimensions of the public and the private become blurred. Therefore, I consider malls not as opponents to the traditional public space but as parts of the complex system of public spaces in Puebla.