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Fighting for a place in the city: social practices and state action in Maceió, Brazil

Cavalcanti, Débora de Barros (2009) Fighting for a place in the city: social practices and state action in Maceió, Brazil. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.em6r4zq2txdq


Our understanding of urban poverty has been broadened during the last decade to focus less on economic characteristics and to include concepts such as exclusion, vulnerability, and violence. The spatial components of poverty have received less attention despite concepts such as the right to the city entering the academic and policy reform agenda. This thesis explores the dynamics of spatial and social integration by surveying the everyday life of precarious settlements in a mediumsized city in North-East Brazil. A qualitative approach that links poverty, mobility, social networks and state action is employed to argue that informal settlements are spatial traps where the individual perspective and exploitative relationships surpass collective approaches. The use of life stories and interviews with residents in three settlements and with planners are used to deconstruct preconceptions and show how the fight for a place in the city takes shape. For the most part the state is absent from the poor’s lives. This absence has some advantages in that the Brazilian state has a record of infringing human rights that leads to a loss of economic, social and spatial links. However, the lack of adequate intervention and community organisations means residents employ in their daily round various tactics including violence, opportunism, and economic and political bargaining to challenge the state and society to rethink the politics of invisibility and what I term as the territorialisation of poverty. The generational legacy of vulnerability and exclusion in the everyday life of the urban poor reveals the difficulties of implementing the right to the city when faced with the worst practices of state and social organisations. Continued mobility and spatial segregation, vulnerability and exclusion reveal that beyond a rhetoric of a right to the city the fight for a place in the city is not over.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Débora de Barros Cavalcanti
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Jones, Gareth A.

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