How do slum dwellers in Quito (Ecuador) look at residents of adjacent rich neighbourhoods and how do the wealthy look back at people in slums? In the book ‘A city built by fear’, criminologist Timo Peeters and photographer Phelim Hoey will combine scientific depth with artistic freedom to portray the daily problems and fears of people in a Latin American city in an original, moving and sometimes humorous way.
A city built by fear
Latin American cities are among the most violent cities in the world. Criminal violence has increased explosively the last two decades and mainly affects urban peripheries. Fear of crime, however, is pervasive among the entire Latin American urban population. The genuine reality of violence is mediatized and sensationalized, sold as a commodity on street corners and television screens. Within this context, Latin America’s fear of crime has developed into something that perhaps could be best described as ‘psychosis-like’. City-dwellers that can afford it, seclude themselves in gated communities, where life is ‘compressed’ and risks of being victimized are minimized. However, by living separately from each other, fear of one another only grows. As the Ecuadorian architect Carrión Mena aptly describes: “there is a fear built in the city, but also a city built by fear”.
In September 2014, we (photographer Phelim Hoey and criminologist Timo Peeters) are heading to Quito for three months of fieldwork. Our main goal is to make a book, in which we combine scientific depth with artistic freedom to a paint a poignant and sometimes humorous picture of daily life in a city dealing with high levels of social and economic inequality. We will be drawing inspiration from our own experiences and observations and, of course, the stories of the Quiteños themselves. What meaning do gated community residents give to the security walls that ‘protect’ them from the outside world and what do they mean for slum dwellers? How do Quiteños deal with the daily threat of violence and who do they hold responsible for this? The ethnographic and photographic research will be equally valuable in our research: the photos are not just for illustration and the text is not secondary to the photography. A serious subject, but one we will explore with a sense of humour.
Phelim is a documentary photographer who graduated from art academy in Utrecht. His strength lies in the way he visualizes and conceptualizes his anthropological and psychological interests in various subjects. Phelim did many projects abroad in the past. In Northern Ireland, he documented the notorious Orange Order marches. In India and Nepal, he portrayed forms of mass hysteria. He is currently researching scientific and biological art forms in collaboration with Wageningen University.
Timo studied both Criminal Law and Criminology at the Utrecht University . For his master thesis in Criminology he studied lynchings in Atucucho, a slum area of Quito. The thesis, based on four months of ethnographic research, was awarded First Prize for best MA thesis in criminology and published as a book by Wolf Legal Publishers in February 2013. In 2007, he spent a month in a gated community in Guayaquil (Ecuador). Timo worked as a criminologist at the Utrecht University and was a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. He has an extensive network in Quito and is fluent in Spanish.