Cities From Scratch

Poverty and Informality in Urban Latin America

Cities From Scratch

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 22 photographs, 2 tables, 6 maps Published: February 2014

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Sociology > Urban Studies

This collection of essays challenges long-entrenched ideas about the history, nature, and significance of the informal neighborhoods that house the vast majority of Latin America's urban poor. Until recently, scholars have mainly viewed these settlements through the prisms of crime and drug-related violence, modernization and development theories, populist or revolutionary politics, or debates about the cultures of poverty. Yet shantytowns have proven both more durable and more multifaceted than any of these perspectives foresaw. Far from being accidental offshoots of more dynamic economic and political developments, they are now a permanent and integral part of Latin America's urban societies, critical to struggles over democratization, economic transformation, identity politics, and the drug and arms trades. Integrating historical, cultural, and social scientific methodologies, this collection brings together recent research from across Latin America, from the informal neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, Managua and Buenos Aires. Amid alarmist exposés, Cities from Scratch intervenes by considering Latin American shantytowns at a new level of interdisciplinary complexity.

Contributors. Javier Auyero, Mariana Cavalcanti, Ratão Diniz, Emilio Duhau, Sujatha Fernandes, Brodwyn Fischer, Bryan McCann, Edward Murphy, Dennis Rodgers


“The present compilation is an indispensable work for scholars, students, and those who are generally interested in urban themes for Latin America and, most especially, in matters involving the development and consolidation of informal neighborhoods there. … One of the strengths of this work is to bring together historians, sociologists, and anthropologists, thus allowing for a fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue. … It is worth mentioning the compilation’s excellent editing and production, which lend an organic quality to it that respects the diversity of ideas and theoretical options.” — Rafael Soares Gonçalves, Hispanic American Historical Review

Cities From Scratch will help students and other readers appreciate some of the earlier origins and nature of irregular settlements and the literature from the 1960s and 1970s.” — Peter M. Ward, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Cities From Scratch is an extremely useful effort, both for the detailed case studies it contains and for the wealth of conceptual and analytic ideas that should provide fuel for much new work." — Henry Dietz, Latin American Politics and Society

"Cities from Scratch provides a timely addition to our understanding of how urbanization and informalization processes play out over time in various Latin American cities." — Janice Perlman, Planning Perspectives

"Cities from Scratch offers a surprisingly fresh take on slums, ghettoes, and shantytowns, classic topics in the social sciences. Based on solid empirical work, the essays are notable for the contributors' attention to local situations and politics, and their willingness to allow the research, rather than theoretical assumptions, to determine their findings." — Jose C. Moya, author of Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850–1930

"This is an excellent collection of innovative, often bracing, reflections on crucial issues of cities and citizenship. In their essays, the contributors think outward from carefully detailed local cases, taking broader theories to task while developing valuable new methodological and conceptual tools. This collection represents both a coming of age and a new point of departure for historical and social scientific study of the informal city." — Mark A. Healey, author of The Ruins of the New Argentina: Peronism and the Remaking of San Juan after the 1944 Earthquake


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Brodwyn Fischer is Professor of History at the University of Chicago. She is the author of A Poverty of Rights: Citizenship and Inequality in Twentieth-Century Rio de Janeiro.

Bryan McCann is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University. He is the author of Hard Times in the Marvelous City: From Dictatorship to Democracy in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil, both also published by Duke University Press.

Javier Auyero is the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina, Contentious Lives: Two Argentine Women, Two Protests, and the Quest for Recognition, Poor People's Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction / Brodwyn Fischer 1

1. A Century in the Present Tense: Crisis,Politics, and the Intellectual History of Brazil's Informal Cities / Brodwyn Fischer 9

2. In and Out of the Margins: Urban Land Seizures and Homeownership in Santiago, Chile / Edward Murphy 68

3. Troubled Oasis: The Intertwining Histories of the Morro dos Cabritos and Bairro Peixoto / Bryan McCann 102

4. Compadres, Vecinos, and Bróderes in the Barrio: Kinship, Politics, and Local Territorialization in Urban Nicaragua / Dennis Rodgers 127

5. The Informal City: An Enduring Slum or a Progressive Habitat? / Emilio Duhau 150

6. The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro / Ratão Diniz (with captions by Bryan McCann) 170

7. Informal Cities and Community-Based Organizing: The Case of the Teatro Alameda / Sujatha Fernandes 185

8. Threshold Markets: The Production of Real-Estate Value between the "Favela" and the "Pavement" / Mariana Cavalcanti 208

9. Toxic Wasting: Flammable Shantytown Revisited / Javier Auyero 238

Bibliography 263

Contributors 285

Index 287
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5533-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5518-2
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