Gentrification, migration, and conflicts about neighbourhood development and transformation

Bas van Heur, Ruth Wauters

Research Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research

A historically comparative approach. FWO PhD fellowship funding.

This research aims to radically break open the gentrification debate by moving beyond the spatial and temporal parochialism of most gentrification studies. It does so by i) investigating the link between neighbourhood change and migration beyond the narrow dichotomy between ‘gentrifiers’ and ‘gentrified’, and ii) adopting a historically comparative approach towards gentrification.

Firstly, ‘gentrifiers’ are often not the only group of newcomers in neighbourhoods that experience gentrification. Given that people who are usually regarded as ‘the gentrified’ may as well be migrants themselves, the ‘rootedness’ and homogeneity that is often tacitly attributed to them in gentrification research needs to be seriously questioned and qualified. Therefore, this project aims to focus on how the interaction of migration flows and the heterogeneity of groups of ‘gentrifiers’ and ‘gentrified’ influence (conflicts about) neighbourhood transformation. Secondly, although gentrification is mostly studied in a western, post-industrial context, there are important indications that gentrification also took place in western pre-industrial and early industrial cities. By studying gentrification by means of a historically comparative case study of neighbourhoods in contemporary Brussels and 19th-century Brussels, this project aim to shed further light on the influence that different types of migration as well as different political-economic constellations could have on processes of gentrification.