The Political Ecology of the Right to the Rainbow City – Informal Spaces and Practices and the Quest for Socio-Environmental Rights in Urbanizing Johannesburg

Authored by: Costanza La Mantia

The Routledge Handbook on Informal Urbanization

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138183889
eBook ISBN: 9781315645544
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on the case of informal settlements in the city of Johannesburg – a sprawling city spatially fragmented largely along economic and racial lines – by stressing the critical lens of urban political ecology and centering the right-to-the-city discourse on socio-environmental rights. While informal settlements in the city are characterized by the absence of basic services and the presence of serious environmental risks (soil and water pollution, frequent fires, landslides, and floods) they also host highly adaptive and resilient communities exhibiting alternative, bottom-up practices, which seek community-driven responses to the numerous challenges they face. Some of these interesting counter practices, and particularly bottom-up environmental and sustainable development processes, form the specific focus of the chapter by exploring how informality seeks to respond to the challenges mentioned above.

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