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Latin American Urbanization: Informality, Inequalities, and Politics

Adrián Lerner Patrón

Latin American cities have become symbols of the stark inequalities of the modern era, often exemplified by photographs that show the coexistence of seemingly poor and wealthy neighborhoods in close proximity. At the core of these representations are notions of formal and informal urbanization, of a city divided in units that are in contact but also discrete. This session will encourage students to question this dichotomy by exploring it at two interrelated levels. On the one hand, the course will focus on the roots of this idea, its links to other key aspects of Latin American history and society, the intellectual traditions that shape it, and its political implications. On the other hand, the session will also shed light into the everyday actions, perceptions, and strategies of people who experience urban inequality, an all-too-real phenomenon that often carries devastating consequences. A critical approach, based on case studies from Brazil and Argentina, reveals that the Latin American city is fertile ground to investigate the spatial, intellectual, economic, environmental, ethnic, gendered and temporal dimensions of social inequality, as well as the possibilities of different disciplinary and methodological perspectives.

Essential Readings:


Further Reading:

  • Almandoz, Arturo. Planning Latin America’s Capital Cities, 1850–1950. London: Routledge, 2002
  • Andrews, George Reid. Blacks and Whites in São Paulo, Brazil, 1888–1988. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
  • Armus, Diego. The Ailing City: Health, Tuberculosis and Culture in Buenos Aires, 1870–1950. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.
  • Armus, Diego, and John Lear. “The Trajectory of Latin American Urban History.” Journal of Urban History 24.3 (1998): 291–301.
  • Brennan, James. The Labor Wars of Córdoba, 1955–1976: Ideology, Work, and Labor Politics in an Argentine Industrial City. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994
  • Caldeira, Teresa. City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Chalhoub, Sidney. Trabalho, lar e botequim: O cotidiano dos trabalhadores no Rio de Janeiro da belle époque. Campinas, Brazil: Unicamp, 2001.
  • Chazkel, Amy. Laws of Chance: Brazil’s Clandestine Lottery and the Making of Urban Public Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011
  • Conniff, Michael. Urban Politics in Brazil: The Rise of Populism, 1925–1945. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981.
  • D’Avella, Nicholas. Concrete Dreams: Practice, Value, and Built Environments in Post-crisis Buenos Aires. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019
  • De Carvalho, José Murilo. Os bestializados: O Rio de Janeiro e a república que não foi. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1987
  • De Jesús, Carolina Maria. Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus. New York: New American Library, 2003.
  • De la Torre, Lidia. Buenos Aires: Del Conventillo a la Villa Miseria, 1869–1989. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial de la Universidad Católica Argentina, 2008.
  • Elena, Eduardo. Dignifying Argentina: Peronism, Citizenship, and Mass Consumption. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.
  • Fischer, Brodwyn. A Poverty of Rights: Citizenship and Inequality in Twentieth-Century Rio de Janeiro. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.
  • Fontes, Paulo. Um nordeste em São Paulo: Trabalhadores migrantes em São Miguel Paulista (1945–66). Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Getúlio Vargas, 2008
  • French, John. The Brazilian Workers’ ABC: Class Conflict and Alliances in Modern São Paulo. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
  • Gilbert, Alan. The Latin American City. London: Latin American Bureau, 1994.
  • Healey, Mark. The Ruins of the New Argentina: Peronism and the Remaking of San Juan after the 1944 Earthquake. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.
  • Holston, James. Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007
  • Holston, James. The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasília. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
  • Karush, Matthew. Culture of Class: Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, 1920–1946. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012
  • Leu, Lorraine. Defiant Geographies: Race and Urban Space in 1920s Rio de Janeiro. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020
  • Miller, Shawn William. The Street Is Ours: Community, the Car, and the Nature of Public Space in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018
  • Needell, Jeffrey. A Tropical Belle Epoque: Elite Culture and Society in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987
  • Owensby, Brian. Intimate Ironies: Modernity and the Making of Middle-Class Lives in Brazil. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.
  • Perlman, Janice. Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Sábato, Hilda. The Many and the Few: Political Participation in Republican Buenos Aires. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.
  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992
  • Sheriff, Robin. Dreaming Equality: Color, Race and Racism in Urban Brazil. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.
  • Valladares, Licia. A invençao da favela: Do mito de origem a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora FGV, 2005