Challenging Conventional Perspectives of Urban Informality

Even though it is widely acknowledged that informal settlements which house the majority of urban residents in developing countries need to be integrated—spatially, economically, socially, and politically—with the core city areas, there is, as yet, very little knowledge about how such integration can be initiated and implemented. This course will address this gap with a focus on Buenos Aires, Argentina which is making an effort to integrate five informal settlements with assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank. The government of Buenos Aires has asked the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) to join hands in addressing this important issue. Our goal is to engage with the problem by offering a course in the Fall 2018 to identify key problems and opportunities for integration of informal settlements. The Fall semester course will discuss theories of informality, poverty, slums, and urban violence with particular references to Buenos Aires. Lectures will be supplemented with talks by international scholars and leaders of the IADB and the World Bank who will work with the DUSP team over the year to discuss questions such as: What are the characteristics of informal settlements? Why is there upward mobility in some areas but not in other areas? What should be the sequence of intervention to integrate the areas to the main city? Who will implement these interventions? What role is community politics likely to play in shaping the interventions? Drawing on these discussions the course will lead to a Spring semester class that would include a site visit to Buenos Aires and preparation of a professional report for the city of Buenos Aires as well as to the IADB and the World Bank.