The Symbolic Dimension of Mobility: Architecture and Social Status in Ecuadorian Informal Settlements


This article explores how the urban poor use global flows of people, goods and ideas as resources to counter the stigma of poverty, focusing on home improvement activities in Ecuadorian informal settlements. Whereas urban poverty is usually associated with deficient housing and slums, the article describes how residents of informal settlements use imported architectural designs and cosmopolitan facilities to improve their homes. It is argued that the mobility of cultural products offers the urban poor potential resources to achieve higher levels of social prestige and wellbeing, thereby analytically connecting the notion of symbolic mobility to current poverty debates.