620.2 Is the south ‘Brazilian'? The public realm in urban Brazil through a comparative lens

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:20 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Jeremy SEEKINGS , Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa
The reconfiguration of urban politics in Brazil over the past twenty-five or so years has attracted widespread scholarly attention. ‘Participatory budgeting’ and related institutions and procedures have provided for new forms of participatory and deliberative democracy, transforming the local public realm. At the same time, popular struggles over land and housing have generated what Holston’s calls ‘insurgent citizenship’: new understandings and forms of citizenship, not as in abstract terms but in practice, realized through the performance of claims by active citizens on other actors, groups or institutions. In many accounts, including Holston’s, these changes in Brazilian cities are represented as the most visible examples of changes that are widespread across the ‘urban peripheries’ of the global South, including (especially) in South Africa and India. Recent scholarship on the diversity of urban politics and society across Brazil and Latin America suggests that the ‘Brazilian model’ is less readily replicated than its proponents believe (even within Brazil). A comparative perspective suggests that, in a variety of settings, the strengths of political society – in terms of both redistribution (of resources and dignity) and co-optation – inhibit the emergence of a public sphere along the lines of the "Brazilian model". Social and cultural differences, especially with regard to status hierarchies, may also inhibit as much as inspire radical challenges to urban governance.