A youth vision of the city: The socio-spatial lives and exclusion of street girls in Bogota, Colombia

Amy E Ritterbusch, Florida International University


This dissertation documents the everyday lives and spaces of a population of youth typically constructed as out of place, and the broader urban context in which they are rendered as such. Thirty-three female and transgender street youth participated in the development of this youth-based participatory action research (YPAR) project utilizing geo-ethnographic methods, auto-photography, and archival research throughout a six-phase, eighteen-month research process in Bogotá, Colombia. This dissertation details the participatory writing process that enabled the YPAR research team to destabilize dominant representations of both street girls and urban space and the participatory mapping process that enabled the development of a youth vision of the city through cartographic images. The maps display individual and aggregate spatial data indicating trends within and making comparisons between three subgroups of the research population according to nine spatial variables. These spatial data, coupled with photographic and ethnographic data, substantiate that street girls’ mobilities and activity spaces intersect with and are altered by state-sponsored urban renewal projects and paramilitary-led social cleansing killings, both efforts to clean up Bogotá by purging the city center of deviant populations and places. Advancing an ethical approach to conducting research with excluded populations, this dissertation argues for the enactment of critical field praxis and care ethics within a YPAR framework to incorporate young people as principal research actors rather than merely voices represented in adultist academic discourse. Interjection of considerations of space, gender, and participation into the study of street youth produce new ways of envisioning the city and the role of young people in research. Instead of seeing the city from a panoptic view, Bogotá is revealed through the eyes of street youth who participated in the construction and feminist visualization of a new cartography and counter-map of the city grounded in embodied, situated praxis. This dissertation presents a socially responsible approach to conducting action-research with high-risk youth by documenting how street girls reclaim their right to the city on paper and in practice; through maps of their everyday exclusion in Bogotá followed by activism to fight against it.

Subject Area

Social research|Geography|Latin American Studies|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Ritterbusch, Amy E, "A youth vision of the city: The socio-spatial lives and exclusion of street girls in Bogota, Colombia" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3484191.