In recent years we have witnessed how the “right to the city” has turned into a more and more fascinating slogan. As an alternative to liberalism in the task of building more equitable and just cities, it has become a banner for social movements, academic circles, NGOs, as well as for certain governments and “development” agencies. The right to the city originates in Henri Lefebvre’s work (1969, 1979, 1991a, 1991b) and it puts forward a “radical restructuring of social, political and economic relations” in the city (Purcell, 2002). Since the 60s, it has inspired the discourse and actions of protest of urban social movements.
Nevertheless, a new discourse on the right to the city has recently emerged within the core of organizations and institutions which differ from the ones that used to proudly represent the issue in the past. This new discourse has brought more and more actors together, it has become dominant and has slowly institutionalized on a global, national and local spheres. During the process, its radical original content has changed significantly.
An example of the process is the appearance on a worldwide scale, since the mid 90’s, of the “world charters” for the right to the city. Amongst the national spaces, the Brazilian process arises with the discussion and endorsement of the Estatuto da Ciudade (City Statute, 2001), which opens a way to institutionalisation in the local sphere by means of the Planes Diretores de Desenvolvimenteo Urbano (Master Plans).
Nevertheless, certain social movements have not participated nor their demands have been included in these processes of production and institutionalisation of the new discourse; namely, the movements which have maintained a “lefebvrian conception” of the right to the city (Mayer, 2009).
The present paper aims to understand the contents as well as the origins and institutionalization of the new dominant discourse of the right to the city. This starting point allows us to deepen into the everyday struggle for the right to the city led by a social movement which stands close to the lefebvrian conception. We intend to explain the way in which the dominant discourse and the new institutionalisation pose significant constraints and, at the same time, a new potential for resistance and for the production of an alternative and more transformative discourse.
Hence, we will study the processes of production and dissemination of essential texts on the right to the city on a global, national (focusing on Brazil) and local basis (focusing on Salvador da Bahia) before deepening into the social struggle of the Movimento Sem Teto da Bahia (MSTB, Bahia Roof-Less Movement) in the city of Salvador.
We will then argue to which extent is the new discourse and its institutionalization able to trigger substantial changes in the way we understand and produce the city, as well as in the power relations and in the hegemony of the dominant groups. And whether the new discourse narrows or preserves the possibility of a more radical and transformative alternative inspired by the utopia.
|Name and Edition of Conference||11th N-AERUS Conference|