The word “gentrification” appears thanks to Ruth Glass in 1964. This sociologist denounces what was happening in some of London’s neighbourhoods in that decade: the displacement of people with few resources, who give up their property to the city’s bourgeoisie. In the process, Ruth watched as many of these neighborhoods became “upper-class ghettos.
However, this term would leave the coasts of the United Kingdom to complement this first definition, which was not able to explain the complexity of these movements. Thus, in the 1970s and 1980s, this concept was taken up again by different English and North American researchers, mainly geographers, who added the understanding of this process as a bifurcation in the social evolution of the degraded central districts. There is talk of a return to the centre, or rather, a return to the suburb.
Compiling some of the definitions given at this time, we find the following:
“It is a phenomenon that occurs simultaneously at the physical, economic, social and cultural levels. Gentrification processes involve the appropriation of the wealthy or better-off middle class in working-class or inner-city neighborhoods. This leads to the replacement or displacement of many of the former occupants.”
Chris Hamnett, 1984
“Recent patterns of middle-class dispersion in neighborhoods formerly occupied by working class or lower class.”
Jon Caulfield, 1994
“Gentrification is the process by which working and lower-class inner-city neighborhoods are renewed through the influx of private capital and real estate companies. Neighbourhoods where investment had slowed down and the middle class had exodused. A dramatic and unforeseen turn to 20th century urban theories that expected different developments in the historic centres.”
Neil Smith, 1996
“For gentrification to occur there must be a combination of four processes:
1: The reorganization of the social geography of the city, including the displacement, in central areas, of one social group by another with a higher economic status.
2: A spatial regrouping of individuals with similar cultural characteristics and lifestyles.
3: A change in the built environment and urban landscape, with the creation of new services and residential rehabilitation, with the associated architectural improvements.
4: A change in the system of ownership in which, in most cases, this leads to rising property prices and the extension of domestic ownership.
Mike Savage and Alan Warde, 1993
Channelling the term
We see how little by little, these first definitions become more complex through the observation and discussion of these processes. We came to a definition in which it is necessary to have a displacement of a population, a regrouping of people with similar traits in the now empty space, a rehabilitation of both the buildings and the environment that make up that space, and, finally, a change in the system of ownership of that place.
In the last thirty years, the four features of gentrification mentioned above have been consolidated, but this has not stalled at the end, which has continued to evolve thanks to the most unique case studies that have occurred in this time. It has been observed that not all gentrification processes produce the same effects, nor are they produced by the same agents. Thus, we can differentiate between different types of gentrification.
In this context, the “Museo de los Desplazados (Museum of the Displaced)” was born, an interesting platform that aims to map and describe these complex processes. If, like us, you are concerned or interested in this very topical issue, we invite you to visit the aforementioned project, and we even encourage you to collaborate with them. Every grain of sand counts for a better understanding of how we can alter these phenomena.