The informal canvas : murals and participatory planning in informal settlements in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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Otero, Shavone Amber

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Murals tell a story. Faced with such marginalization under neoliberal governance, artists and activists in Santo Domingo have engaged in a global conversation that challenges hegemonic narratives of planning and urban development and that foregrounds traditional forms of knowledge through alternative forms of storytelling. These subjugated stories are increasingly becoming legitimized through digital and social media platforms. Murals, in particular, often serve as public expressions of the neglected experience of the subaltern. Subaltern populations thus use public murals as a multifunctional and unique strategy to assert agency—defined here as self-determination and political coalition building—from the margins and to create a public forum for sociopolitical demands. Because of these empowerment potentials, muralism can be seen as a global phenomenon connecting communities through digital media (when digital media is available). Ultimately, the marriage of paint and politics through murals has facilitated deep transformations that can be used as a powerful tool within participatory planning and public policy at both the local, community-level and in traditional, decision-making spaces. This is because murals are multifunctional in their potential to build social capital and create alliances. This potential is amplified through mural programs, organizations, and radical planners, allowing street art to exist semi-permanently within the legislated city while serving as a transformative practice for local knowledge and marginalized voices to participate in traditional planning processes. This is the story of Los Platanitos


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