Thinking ‘through elsewhere’ and ‘from here’: the politics of slum upgrading in Latin American cities
Funding period: 1 March 2020 – 1 March 2023
Type of funding: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
Dr. Camila Saraiva is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC) Laboratory for Urban and Regional Studies and Projects (LEPUR). She is an urban planner with interests in urban inequality, informal settlements, housing, comparative urbanism, (southern) urban theory and practices. Her current project is a transcalar comparison of the trajectory of slum upgrading policies and its results in São Paulo (Brazil), Medellin (Colombia), and Buenos Aires (Argentina). Three cities wherein national and municipal slum upgrading policies, particularly from the 2000s, has been attracting much international attention. She aims, firstly, to understand the idiosyncrasies of slum upgrading policies in each city, one to another and vis-à-vis international circuits of development aid. Secondly, to explore how these policies have been contributing to more integrated and equal cities.
By investigating a variety of political and territorial dynamics at work in and across cases, she expects to produce detailed narratives of slum upgrading that question broadcasted policy models. Squatting is an essential aspect of most southern or peripheral urbanisms. Understanding the politics and territorial effects of slum upgrading can be of great value to leverage forward-looking policy actions towards more just, inclusive and sustainable cities.
As part of her USF Fellowship, Dr Saraiva also received a USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award in November 2021 (see below).
USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award: Mobilizing alternative circuits of knowledge: memory as resistance and connection among self-built and upgraded settlements in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Medellín
Contemporary urban policy models are often shaped by policymakers and specialists from hegemonic circuits of knowledge: multilateral agencies, transnational city networks, and think tanks, among others. But what if we connected local struggles and in-situ upgrading stories of community-based organizations in different cities? What if such memory building and knowledge sharing could empower each community in appealing for public policy towards more just cities? After all, the spread of mobile phones and Wi-Fi networks inside many upgraded communities has opened new possibilities to build alternative circuits of knowledge sharing.
This project involves the creation of a digital platform on in-situ upgrading stories to be available on a dynamic website suitable for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, containing straightforward written content, digital artworks, short videos, and photos. The main goal is to create an alternative transnational source of knowledge dissemination wherein the voice and perception of communities that went through in-situ upgrading processes are the main characters.
This proposal is in sync with my USF-funded postdoctoral research project (2020-2023), which encompasses a systematic comparison of the trajectory of in-situ upgrading’ policies in three Latin American cities: São Paulo, Medellin, and Buenos Aires. One of the objectives of this research project is to examine, relationally, the unfolding of governmental agendas, regulations, and physical intervention approaches to upgrade self-built settlements in those cities.
The idea to create such a digital platform was born out of one comment and a request made by the current president of UNAS, the main dwellers’ association in Heliópolis, the largest favela in São Paulo. While interviewing her for the USF-funded postdoctoral research project, she revealed her wish to learn more about the Medellín case, bearing in mind that she hears a lot about the transformations “in favelas from there” but does not understand “what exactly is going on” in that city. At the end of our conversation, she also asked for a timeline connecting the several intervention projects in Heliópolis with the different municipal mandates and housing policies. Such a timeline would help “her memory” when telling the story of Heliópolis, considering that while the struggle that she and other residents have been through remains very much alive and clear in her mind, the connections of their fight with the city’s politics are already blurred.
The digital platform aims to make accessible to a general public part of my USF-funded postdoctoral research project. It also intends to facilitate the exchange of knowledge among communities that went through in-situ upgrading processes, perhaps triggering alternative forms of cooperation. It builds on and advances some of the actual existing efforts of communities in preserving their memory.