Informal Urbanization Versus Modernization – Popular Resistance in Fortaleza, Brazil

Authored by: Germana Câmara , Clarissa Freitas , Beatriz Rufino

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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The chapter discusses an ongoing urban conflict involving residents’ struggle to remain in a consolidated informal settlement located in a disputed high-end neighborhood of Fortaleza, Brazil, and reflects upon the role of urban informality in Brazilian democracy. It adopts the perspective of the residents to tell the story of three successive waves of state-led evictions between the early 1990s and 2016, relating that story to the overall development of the city. The story of the Trilha do Senhor community supports the claim that the discussions on the political meaning of informal urbanization must be conducted in the broader context of institutional and planning practices, their political character, and the general process of production of urban space. The case reveals the oppressive nature of urban informality, as it imposes conditions of sub-citizenship even in the few instances where informal dwellers have conquered basic services. On the other hand, the case also reveals insurgency against a deeply entrenched exclusionary urban development logic: it has become increasingly harder and politically taxing for the authorities to ignore the reality of informal residents and to overlook their rights. This change, we argue, is not due to a benevolent action by the State, but rather to a process of progressive empowerment of the residents, in which education, connectivity, and collective action play an important role.

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