In the name of urban growth Mexico City officials have approved “self-devouring” infrastructure projects, displacing and endangering residents and threatening the city’s very survival. For the “Layered Metropolis” series, Dean Chahim examines how the El Ángulo dam exposes the dangerous dynamic of a weakened state confronting (or not confronting) the forces of mobile global capitalism. While Chahim’s research is grounded in the specific history and realities of Mexico City’s complex drainage system, his analysis reveals much more general contours of the potentially lethal relationship between the pressures of global capital interests and development in dense urban spaces.
From Our Fellows
The SSRC has been providing funding to researchers at all stages of their academic and professional careers for more than 90 years. Through a highly competitive and rigorous peer-review process, the SSRC has awarded over 15,000 fellowships and grants to support research around the globe. From Our Fellows focuses on emerging research in the social sciences, including intersections with the humanities and natural sciences, by recipients of SSRC funding. The SSRC’s fellowships, grants, and prizes improve conditions for social science knowledge production worldwide.
In the slum settlements of India, individual slum leaders, acting as party workers, play dynamic roles that connect local residents to national political parties. This local leadership aids residents in making demands for public services, and also mobilizes votes, but it also means there are great disparities in the level of local services and development. In this essay for our “Layered Metropolis” series, based on his book Demanding Development: The Politics of Public Good Provision in India’s Urban Slums, Adam Auerbach examines the work of local leaders and party networks in two north Indian cities to understand this phenomenon.
Maria Taylor’s examination of greenspace in Soviet urban planning is especially timely in its discussion of unequal access to parks and open space, and awareness of the political resonance of that inequality. Expressive of Soviet ideals of socialist modernity, the “garden-factories” were intended to signal support for industrial productivity, worker dignity, as well as the aesthetic, social, and hygienic mediation between industrial hazards (environmental and otherwise) and workers’ health. Conceived and designed to convey “care for workers,” factory green sites had an important political role to play in the Soviet Union—“greenwashing” rapid industrialization, but also offering up a distinctly Soviet urban theory and practice that nurtured a certain relationship between nature, the built environment, politicization, and mass protest.
Sheetal Chhabria’s contribution to “Layered Metropolis” illuminates the purposeful work that has been part of city-making in India—from colonial Bombay to present-day Mumbai. For over a century, distinctions of dwelling types, categories of laborers, and delineations of economic activity have been used to codify and recodify the political standing of space, in particular what is considered “urban.” Chhabria’s example of Bombay/Mumbai illustrates how language and official (and unofficial) categorizations have served the interests of certain institutions and groups within India’s spatial governance and that supposed “crises of urbanism” are part of a much larger context of racial capitalism across the cities of the world.
What is the relationship between the built environment, social interaction, crime, policing, and resident experience? Patience Adzande seeks to answer these connected questions through an examination of Makurdi, Nigeria, by showing the limits of urban planning and insufficient infrastructure—including lapses in formal policing. These shortcomings have left many residents to create their own “territorial markers”—including constructing walls and fences—which have had significant impact on social interaction with and experience of the urban space, often not achieving the deterrence in crime residents sought. Adzande’s contribution to the “Layered Metropolis” series offers sobering analysis of the limits of formal urban intervention at the same time that it offers some prescription for policy for an improved future in the lives of city residents.
While congressional conflict is most visible when the institution is debating a bill or nomination, the roots of conflict arise earlier in the legislative process. When the House and Senate debate legislation, two of the institution’s most important decisions—whether to make policy and how—already have been made at the committee level. In this essay, Jonathan Lewallen explores agreement and dissent in congressional committees. Drawing on committee reports, he finds that, although overall rates of disagreement on committee reports have not changed much since the mid-1990s, there is variation in the likelihood of report disagreements by committee. This project is poised to better understand where and why agreement in Congress has become harder.
The spatial history of São Paulo’s Brasilândia neighborhood reveals broader truths about the city. From its origins in the early twentieth century through the 1985 Black Women’s Collective celebration of the renaming of a public plaza to the city’s plan for its newest metro stop, Andrew Britt’s work shows how African descendants in São Paulo were persistently displaced and persistently present. The racialized space of Brasilandia tells a layered story of Black enslavement, forced migration, urban redevelopment, and Black self-determination, with echoes far beyond São Paulo.