Dissertation Abstracts

The Emergence of Enclaves of Wealth and Poverty: A Sociological Study of Residential Differentiation in Post-Communist Poland

Author: Polanska, Dominika V, dominika.v.polanska@gmail.com
University: Stockholm University/Baltic and East European Graduate School, Sweden
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: gated communities , post-socialism , residential differen , Poland
Areas of Research: Regional and Urban Development


The general aim of this thesis is to examine the urban transformation taking place in the post-communist context. The more specific aim of this thesis is to study the processes of residential differentiation taking place in the urban landscape of the Polish city of Gdańsk after the introduction of the capitalist system. The focus is on different forms of residential differentiation and the social, economic, and historical factors behind these forms in various neighbourhoods in the city and the investigation of their emergence and development in space and in time. A deprived neighbourhood along with three gated residential developments have been chosen as two extremes that reflect involuntary and voluntary residential differentiation in the city. The research aims to explain the emergence and the ever increasing popularity of gated communities in the city, but also in the country alongside the phenomenon of deepening deprivation in other neighbourhoods. This dissertation is divided into four studies; together, they cover different scales reaching from the national level in the legal and regulatory framework (and its implications on housing, revitalization, and spatial planning in the country) and the discourses prevalent in the national and local media on the topic of gated housing and the specific deprived area to the level of neighbourhoods where different forms of housing are mapped and residents are asked for their opinion on their places of residence.

Study (I) examines the way in which different social, economic, historical and physical conditions coincide in the formation of space and the processes of decline in the period of transformation in Poland. The focus lies on a specific residential area in the center of Gdańsk and the lack of improvements in this particular area, which would stop its successive decline.

Study (II) explains the emergence of gated communities in the post-communist urban context and discusses the reasons for their increasing numbers and popularity. The main argument is that the popularity of gated communities is tightly intertwined with the communist past, emerging in reaction to the housing conditions that prevailed under communism.

Study (III) investigates how social class markers are constructed in the discourse on gated communities in post-socialist Poland. The “new” capitalistic system, with its inherent social divisions, is described in the discourse as creating demands for “new” forms of housing, where gates function as separators, protectors, and class identifiers.

Study (IV) looks at the support for the formation of gated communities in the legal and regulatory framework in Poland since 1989. The paper asserts that liberal politics and legal regulation in the country has resulted in the neglect of spatial planning and the creation of imprecise urban policies.