Development and Urbanization
We analysed women street dwellers and itinerant vendors and reflected about their lives in make shift homes in Escolta, a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood in historic Manila. The lives of these women are shaped by great uncertainty. By turns evicted and sheltered, they have devised ways of survival and established their network of neighbours on the streets. Our exchanges and interactions with them reveal their positions in the fringes of the city. While they recognise development as inevitable, they express their desire to be heard and actively take part in changes happening around them. The workshops also surfaced vernacular understandings of ways of life on the streets through artist initiated projects. These foregrounded artistic approaches to mapping social relationships in the contemporary city. Escolta is one of several burgeoning ‘creative hubs’ in the sprawling metropolis. We investigate culture-led development, where artists and creatives spur urban change. This approach troubles the neoliberal activation of creativity and the creative industries to justify urban development. By considering the potential of artistic practices for critical dialogue and engagement, we attempt to identify ways art can become a powerful mediator of life ways in neighbourhoods threatened with being pushed out of urban cores, if not totally erased. We also cross reference activist modes of squatting, dwelling, and claiming rights to housing in the city. The study also introduces an interdisciplinary framework to understanding the rapidly changing Southeast Asian city.