AbstractsWomens Studies

Claiming Space Amongst Wolves: Women and Mobility in Mexico City

by Asløg Schytter Andersen

Institution: Roskilde University
Year: 2015
Keywords: mobility; Mexico City; women; gender; mobility planning; urban theory; the right to the city; the gendered right to the city; cycling; Mexico; patriarchy; ethnography; transportation
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2067289
Full text PDF: http://rudar.ruc.dk/handle/1800/25186


This master thesis is based on an ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Mexico City in the beginning of 2015. I am researching women and mobility in the city, applying a participatory and sensory approach to the field. Methodologically, I am primarily inspired by Sarah Pink, Kirsten Hastrup and Ann Oakley. In Mexico City I explored the urban space in which my informants move, the socio-cultural encounters that took place in this space and my informants’ thoughts and perspectives on these meetings. My analyses and discussions are grounded in embodied ways of knowing, including my experiences and biases, and knowledge based on everyday life experiences. In the thesis I ask: How do women with cultural capital seek to claim the public urban space in Mexico City, engaging with the structural and physical possibilities and restraints that constitute this given space? In a three-part chapter concerning three differently defined spaces and ways of moving - walking or exercising, travelling with public transport and biking - I analyse and discuss how women in Mexico City perceive these methods of transportation, employing the analytical focal points of safety, empowerment and freedom. The women’s mobility is restrained by the patriarchal Mexican culture and they seek to combat it in different ways. One salient method is through use of the bike, an effective tool in claiming public urban space as a woman and experiencing personal capability in the male-dominated society. Even though my focus is on gender rather than class I do engage with the women’s positionality and how it frames their choices, concerns about and understandings of safety and rights since my informants belong to an (aspirational) middle class which give them certain possibilities that other women in Mexican society do not enjoy. I find my theoretical tools and perspectives on lived experiences, public urban space, the right to the city, gender, the body, freedom and mobility in the works of Andrew Sayer, Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, Leonie Sandercock, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Kirsten Simonsen, Toril Moi, Simone de Beauvoir, Iris Marion Young, Tovi Fenster, Susan Hanson, John Urry, Mimi Sheller and Pierre Bourdieu. The thesis advocates a move beyond the portrayal of women as (only) victims when researching and discussing issues of marginalisation of women in cities. Instead it proposes a focus on and incorporation of the socio-spatial context and lived gendered perspectives in trying to understand women’s urban experiences - and how they can be improved. The thesis argues for an approach in which women are (also) understood as subjects in a certain context, seeking to claim their right to public urban space in ways possible to them, instead of just as vulnerable objects to be protected. Advisors/Committee Members: Christensen, Julia (advisor), Jensen, Lars (advisor).