Place-making through culture : the role of religiosity as a cultural phenomenon in the construction of place in Caracas' barrios

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In this thesis I present a story about place-making through culture, specifically about the construction of place in Caracas’ barrios through Catholic processions. From a trans-disciplinary perspective, I approach the themes of urban space, meaning as a psychosocial construct, and religiosity as culture. This thesis contributes to the understanding of the underlying complexities of turning spaces into places through studying the built form, the activities in and uses of the urban space, and the meanings associated with it. The main research question that guides this study is: What is the role of culture (using Catholicism as a lens) in the construction of place in Caracas’ barrios? In addition, three component questions that align to the three fundamental place-making elements guide the three main stories that build this thesis: 1. How do barrio residents conceive and construct the physicality of the private, public and religious spaces? 2. How do residents use the physical spaces of the barrios to express their religious culture? 3. What psychosocial meanings do residents associate with the spaces through which the Catholic processions move? To answer these questions, I chose a qualitative approach and a case study design. I interacted with and interviewed organisers and key participants, engaged in participant observation around Holy Week processions, and collected audio-visual data. Using qualitative thematic analysis, I explore from the participants’ perspectives their understanding of the construction of their place though culture. The research shows that cultural manifestations in the urban space are not only a way for people to express their culture. They are also a way for people to reclaim their spaces, build relational places, redefine the flexible private-public boundary, and reshape meaning. This study also revealed the different power relationships in barrios, and how institutions impact on the construction of place in barrios. Through this place-making story, I demonstrate the importance to understand, consider and enable culture.
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