Negotiating the Slum: Understanding the Human-Spatial Dynamics of Nima, Accra

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The main ambition is to expose the relationship between physical characteristics of a slum environment and the quality of life of its residents, which it investigates in Nima, a slum neighborhood of Accra. The conceptual framework seeks to synthesize and contribute to the discourse on urban poverty, slums, livelihoods and quality of life, currently dominated by organizations such as The World Bank and UN-Habitat. The thesis combines methods from social and planning disciplines in order to reach a multifocal understanding of processes involved. The spatial analysis describes the spatial and physical characteristics of Nima, whereas the subsequent quality of life analysis describes residents' perceptions of their life and life-space. Comparison of the two analyses shows that relationships between individuals and environment are more complex and meaningful than popular discourse on slums can account for. Presence of upward mobility suggests that residents of Nima are not preoccupied with ‘surviving’, but are actively improving their quality of life, in which for many Nima plays an important part. The main contribution is the recognition that combining different disciplines and perspectives to analyze such a complex relationship can lead to important insights and a broader understanding, valuable for informing decisions of governance and planning.
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