Accepted paper:

Spatial reordering and political subjectivity in slum upgrading in Recife, Brazil

Authors:

Monique Nuijten (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the effects of slum upgrading on the lives of the population, especially their position in society and their political subjectivity. It focuses on a slum upgrading project in Recife (Brazil) that removes the population from shacks at riverbeds to new housing estates.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyses the effects of slum upgrading on the lives of slum dwellers, especially on their position in society and their political subjectivity. It zooms in on the implementation of PrometrĂ³pole, a World Bank funded slum upgrading project in Recife that removes the population from shacks close to rivers to new housing estates. In this project, the state embraces participatory democracy and stresses the growing inclusion of the poor as citizens of the Brazilian nation-state. The question that inspires this paper is: 'How does the "citizenship agenda" employed by the Brazilian state relate to practices of political belonging in the urban periphery, characterized by social exclusion and violence?' What are the consequences of these projects for political life and political subjectivity in the urban periphery? On the basis of ethnographic research the paper concludes that the upgrading of poor neighbourhoods can indeed increase feelings of belonging and inclusion among the poor population. At the same time, however, the empty participatory procedures and the stress on the obligation to become good citizens, have the effect of disregarding the needs of the poor. Interestingly, far from being docile subjects, the target population involved themselves in illegal reconstructions and transactions, once they received the new houses. Many creatively manipulated the opportunities offered by the project. This shows that extra legal means remain an important way for the poor to defend their "right of being", including their right to shape urban space.

panel G11
Urban renewal over the globe: the spatial dimensions of citizenship