The tidy city and the conflict of garbage as a symptom of urban social tensions

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    The reflections presented in this article retake what was produced through four focus groups −two in the city of Villa Maria, two in the city of Córdoba, Argentina− in August 2009, formed by individuals with different experiences in collective work, where some informal garbage collectors also attended; all this along with what was recorded by personal interviews conducted during 2007, 2008 and 2009 in both cities.

    Our interest is to highlight, mainly from the perspective of the participants, the way in which the problem of garbage and the tasks of those working with it have set a series of social relations and practices that allowed to defuse social tensions in Villa Maria, under the fantasy of a tidy city. In our paper, the issues surrounding the treatment of waste become a place from which to observe how were solved the processes of inter-class relations, the disposal of bodies, and the concealment and revelation of faces at cities of different scales.

    The speeches both at the focus group and the personal interviews have displayed what may be interpreted as a recurrent Social Fantasy regarding the structure and dynamics of classes in the city: “Villa Maria has neither country clubs nor shantytowns”. This Fantasy is anchored and operates organizing certain practices altogether with its comparison with Cordoba: a city where inequality among classes is crudely −and ever so deep− expressed.

    As it is known the basic operatory of a Fantasy is twofold: firstly it keeps away −outside the city limits− which appears to be horrific (in this case, the phantom of structural class inequality), and secondly, its very constitution as a shield closures the vision on the class formation where it takes place, allowing the projection of what is desired: being part of a city where ‘there is no extreme wealth or extreme poverty”.

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