Cities Unbound: Life in Slums

Martijn Koster (Utrecht School of Governance), and Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam, Centre for Urban Studies)
Date and Time: 
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 5:30pm

Fear and Intimacy: citizenship in a Recife slum
Prof. Koster
In Brazil, the democratic regime has brought much improvement regarding citizenship rights and the institutionalization of citizen participation. However, the urban poor still feel alienated from the state, its programs and the legal system. This paper argues that, to understand the citizenship of these 'half-citizens', it is necessary to take account of an unofficial realm of practices. I show how slum dwellers in Recife interpret and deal with the state project of registered citizenship as it is materialized in the compulsory carrying of an identity card. Carrying the card is surrounded by fear of intrusive police control. However, obtaining such a card through alternative, informal, procedures is associated with a longing for personalized relationships with the police and other state representatives. The relationship of these slum dwellers with their identity cards is thus both fearful and affectionate, and their citizenship can be considered as a confluence of fear and intimacy.

The Viscous State: Crime and Unruly Citizenship in Urban Jamaica
Prof. Jaffe
This paper explores the complicated relationship between the Jamaican state, criminal leaders (known as “dons”) and the urban poor. Based on their role as brokers between politicians and inner-city residents, dons came to preside over politically partisan enclaves known as “garrisons”. In these marginalized urban areas, dons have increasingly taken on functions and symbols associated with the state, and their authority is considered legitimate by many inner-city residents. How can we understand the authority and legitimacy of Jamaica's dons, and what insights can this offer into how the state and citizenship are being reconfigured? Building on Sartre's idea of the viscous, I argue for an analysis of donmanship through the concept of a “viscous state”, a variable, shape-shifting entity in which criminal organizations and the formal state are entangled in a relationship of collusion and divestment. I argue that such a viscous state both produces and relies on distinct political subjectivities. It is accompanied by a reconfigured citizenship, in which inner-city residents narrate and enact relationships of rights and responsibilities with both dons and formal state actors. These multiple allegiances are sometimes contradictory but often overlap and intersect, as when voting behavior and party-political loyalty reflect and reinforce acceptance of a politically connected don, or when residents stage peaceful demonstrations to protest their don's extradition. These unruly forms of citizenship are the unstable, ambivalent outcome of ongoing power struggles that take place at different sites, from the street corner to the boardroom, reflecting relations of both coercion and reciprocity.