More people around the world live in cities than in rural areas since 2008. The fastest growing of these cities are located in developing countries, where new and creative ways of organizing work, entertainment and transport are constantly emerging. One of the visible consequences of the rapid growth of cities in the Global South is the increasing segregation and fracturing of the urban landscape. Heavily guarded and gated communities and expensive shopping malls abruptly come to a halt, giving way to their opposite: informal economies and slum dwellings. Public space to mediate between these two extremes disappears, along with the “middle class” societies that negotiate the distance between them. This situation produces multiple social and environmental problems for the inhabitants of these cities and for those trying to govern them: from urban crime and violence, to waste management and pollution. At the same time, these cities are also an exceptional source of ingenuity that is manifested in new art forms, architectural innovations and business opportunities. In short, it is in the new forms of social organization and cultural expression characteristic of these mega-cities of the Global South where we need to focus if we want to understand life in the 21st century.
In the course’s Moodle page you will have access to Planet of Slums (2006) by Mike Davis, a fascinating book to understand the anxieties and dreams behind the millions of people who continue to move into overcrowded cities in search of a better livelihood. Please read the book to get a glimpse of the problems that the class will be exploring.