In recent years, there has been a significant increase in demand for some neighborhoods in the central region of São Paulo by young people belonging to the middle and upper layers of the population. This represents a reversal of the historical trend in which elites moved to areas far from the center. There are several factors that drive this movement, which is the object of study by Maurício Alcântara in his book “São Paulo, a Cidade na Escala Hipster”, published by Telha. In this research, the anthropologist investigates the motivations that lead these privileged young people to choose to live in the central area of the largest capital in the country, driven by new repertoires – generally more progressive and in line with global trends – of experiencing the city, claiming it and enjoying it. there.
In addition, the author reflects on the consequences of this “hipsterization” phenomenon, contributing to the global debate on “gentrification” from an urban ethnography. The starting point of the research was a change in the profile of local commerce, with the emergence of new restaurants, cultural spaces, shops and cafes aimed mainly at a young public, who identify with a progressive political spectrum, work in areas that value creativity and insists on enjoying all the cultural diversity and services that the region offers.
“São Paulo, the City on the Hipster Scale” is the result of an anthropological research carried out between 2016 and 2019 in the Vila Buarque neighborhood. The book presents a brief historical context of the transformations that the neighborhood and its surroundings went through since its urbanization at the end of the 19th century, and analyzes the different processes involved in the consolidation of a “hipster scene” in the city center. This includes the dissemination of aesthetic references, consumption trends and lifestyles on a global scale, the impacts of the precariousness of the labor market on new establishments aimed at this public, and the debates on urban segregation that this phenomenon can provoke.
Maurício Fernandes de Alcântara is an anthropologist, graduated in Social Communication from Faculdade Cásper Líbero and in Social Sciences from the University of São Paulo, with a master’s degree in Social Anthropology also from the University of São Paulo. Her research focuses on cosmopolitanism and the circulation of aesthetic references between large metropolises in the global North and South.
How does the historical context of the urbanization of the Vila Buarque neighborhood influence the transformations observed and discussed in the research?
There are urban factors, cultural factors and historical factors that allow us to understand this phenomenon:
The urbanistic ones are an infrastructure (transport, services, commerce, leisure) already established for decades, the offer of a great diversity of properties (from new to old, from large apartments to kitchenettes) and recent investments by the State that make the region even more attractive (such as the inauguration of Metro Line 4 – Yellow, renovation of Praça Roosevelt, inauguration of Parque Augusta and the process of converting Minhocão into a park).
The cultural ones relate to the growing interest of more progressive people in experiencing the diversity of the Center, and who realize that being close to everything can be more interesting than the need to travel by car all the time (against the historical trend of elites move away from the diversity of the Center). Added to this is the speed with which global references of consumption, aesthetics, and style circulate at the speed of the internet and with the increase in international travel, with social networks feeding an imaginary of people who, all over the world, act as cosmopolitan mediators who seek to translate “desirable” urban experiences, observable elsewhere,
The historical factors go back to the urbanization of the neighborhood, which is on the edge of the upscale neighborhood of Higienópolis. Since the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, it was thought of as a kind of barrier to contain the advance of commercial activities in the Center towards Higienópolis. In this strategy, the Vila Buarque region began to concentrate prestigious universities and cultural spaces, and in the mid-20th century it began to concentrate various entities dedicated to creative areas, such as architecture and advertising. This suggests that the bohemian and “cool” occupation that began to be observed in the neighborhood in the last decade is not exactly unprecedented.
What are the debates raised in relation to urban segregation caused by hipsterization?
Hipsterization occurs when a neighborhood or region starts to attract and concentrate residents, regulars and establishments aimed at a hipster audience – which are precisely these young adults from the middle and upper classes, highly connected to global trends in aesthetics and consumption, but who have a more progressive, more left-wing political perspective.
Many studies in cities in the Global North suggest that the arrival of this public in popular or degraded neighborhoods means the arrival of the so-called pioneers of gentrification – which is the process in which lower-income and more vulnerable populations are forced to move out of the neighborhood due to pressure from the arrival of people with higher incomes and the increase in the local cost of living. According to these surveys, it is the hipsters who are starting to make the neighborhood more attractive (or more tolerable) to the tastes of an elite that previously did not consider settling in these neighborhoods due to fear or lack of prestige. For this process, the American sociologist Sharon Zukin coined the expression “pacification by cappuccino”.
The research reported in the book, in the Vila Buarque neighborhood, in downtown São Paulo, shows that this rule is not universal: due to the fact that hipsterization takes place in a neighborhood that has historically always been occupied by middle and upper classes, it is difficult to state that what is happening in Vila Buarque is its gentrification – in fact, there are other neighborhoods in the surroundings, such as Campos Elísios and Santa Ifigênia, which are at much greater risk of being gentrified than Vila Buarque and Santa Cecília. On the other hand, this does not mean that the cost of living in the neighborhood (as well as in several other neighborhoods in the Capital) is not rising,
What are the changes observed in the landscape and occupation profile of sidewalks in the central region of São Paulo over the last decade?
Among the main perceptible changes is the emergence of small, discreet commercial establishments, with modern and minimalist decoration, offering sophisticated and handcrafted products, which would hardly be found in conventional establishments. These spaces (restaurants, bars, cafes, decoration stores, bookstores) do not belong to large chains, they are camouflaged amid the diversity of conventional shops present in the neighborhood, and attract and concentrate an equally “modern” profile of regulars who start to circulate around the neighborhood and looking for it as an alternative housing. At the same time that this phenomenon happens practically without being noticed by less attentive observers.
What are the main aspects addressed in the research in relation to the consolidation of a “hipster scene” in downtown São Paulo?
In general terms, the research starts from a series of questions: what is this phenomenon that has called the attention of the press, the real estate market and public opinion about the qualities of living in the Center? Who are these new visitors, what are they looking for, and why is it precisely in this neighborhood that they find spaces for sociability and leisure in line with their tastes and expectations? What are these spaces, who do they belong to and how did they come about? What does this say about a global circulation of aesthetic trends, consumption and ways of being in the city? What are the effects of this in practice, on the patterns of dispute over the occupation of urban land?
How does the precariousness of the labor market affect establishments aimed at the hipster public in the central region?
In fact, many of the establishments are the result of the saturation of their owners with their professional careers – who give up doing what they have always done and studied to do (most of the time linked to creative areas, such as communication, architecture and arts), to undertake something totally new, combining not only “making money doing what you like”, but also spaces aimed at people from the same social circles to which they themselves belong. The research, then, ends up talking about precarious characteristics of some of the professions of origin of these people from the middle and upper classes (which evidently are not compared to the precarious working conditions of low-income populations), but also about how some activities normally seen as low prestige (such as selling plants,
What are the author’s perspectives regarding the impact of the research and the book on understanding the phenomenon of hipsterization and its consequences in São Paulo and other large cities?
The work seeks to contribute to an increasingly growing debate about what kind of city can be desired, claimed and, in some way, produced by the inhabitants; about what are the effects of when a profile of residents and regulars seems to “change the face” of a region, and what is the role of the State and the real estate market in this process. For several years, this debate has gone beyond the limits of academia and has been increasingly present in the press, audiovisual media, social networks and public debate – and it is with this debate that the work intends to contribute. Regarding the impact of the research, the main intention is to contribute with local perspectives,
Book:São Paulo, , the city on the Hipster Scale: A study on cosmopolitanism, “gentrification” and work
Publishing company:Roof tile