Women, political activism and housing: The case of women's struggle for housing in Costa Rica
This dissertation examines the political participation of women in the struggle for housing in Costa Rica. The causes, consequences, and implications of that participation are analyzed at four different levels: the women's personal and family lives; the social movement organization in which they participate; the layout and structure of social relations of the new communities that have been built; and the government's housing policy. The methodological strategy to accomplish this research was based on the main postulates of the feminist and qualitative approach to social research. Thus, it included a purposive non-probability sampling method and a qualitative method of data collection whose main components were participant observation, in-depth interviewing, group interviewing, and analysis of documents. This study shows how the social relations of reproduction, centered on the home, and poor women's struggle for survival created the foundations for the development of the Costa Rican housing movement. As part of the new social movements that emerged in Latin America during the 1970's and 1980's, the housing movement was born as a response by the social actors, primarily poor women, to the lack of political effectiveness demonstrated by traditional organizations to address and struggle for issues of daily subsistence and collective consumption. The housing movement in turn became an important builder of women as new political subjects with new social identities, goals, and aspirations. The movement has also served as an effective means for women to connect their everyday problems with politics and State policy. That is, by consciously engaging in collective action aimed at improving their everyday life, the women constituents of the housing movement "politicized" the private domain and made their needs heard in the public sphere. Thus, the movement has had a strong impact on the country's social struggles by incorporating new social subjects into the political arena, on the government's housing policy, and on the women constituents, who have been radically changed by their political involvement.