Taking back the city: Inner-city slum and homeless movement collective action in São Paulo

Charmain Levy


This article analyses the collective action of the São Paulo inner-city slum movement during the 1997-2000 period. This movement mobilized thousands of slum dwellers and homeless in the downtown core and occupied dozens of abandoned buildings during this period. The author explains through economic, political and social factors the building occupations in the Sao Paulo downtown core, an urban region with little history of collective mobilisation and political contention, at a time when urban movements became more institutionalized. In addition, this article introduces a different analytical frame that identifies both structural and agency factors, while taking into account the associated objective (economic) and subjective (political and cultural) conditions. It first describes the relevant economic variables in their specific situational context, which in this case are the changes in the political economy and their impact on the low income urban population and on state restructuring. Second, it explores local urban political dynamics, institutional practices involving housing policy and the interaction among different political actors which condition the collective action and organisation of social movements. Finally, it studies the characteristics of this movement and how the contention of other national social movements influenced the repertoire of action and the framing of this urban popular movement.

Key words: social movement, slums, collective action, urban poor, housing, Brazil.

Palabras clave

social movement, slums, collective action, urban poor, housing, Brazil

Texto completo: PDF

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