A billion people, almost half of all city dwellers in the developing world, live in squatter settlements. The most famous of these settlements are the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which have existed for over a century and continue to outpace the rest of the city in growth.
Janice Perlman's award-winning The Myth of Marginality was the first in-depth account of life in the favelas, and it is considered one of the most important books in global urban studies in the last 40 years. Now, in Favela, Perlman carries that story forward to the present. Re-interviewing many longtime favela residents whom she had first met in 1969as well as their children and grandchildrenPerlman offers the only long-term perspective available on the favela families as they struggle for a better life. Perlman discovers that much has changed in four decades, but while educational levels have risen, democracy has replaced dictatorship, and material conditions have improved, many residents feel more marginalized than ever. The greatest change is the explosion of drug and arms trade and the high incidence of fatal violence that has resulted. Almost one in five people report that a member of their family has been a victim of homicide. Yet the highest priority for the residents is jobs. Above all they want a chance to do decent work for decent pay. If unemployment and under-employment are not addressed, Perlman argues, all other efforts - from housing to public security to community upgrading - will fail to resolve the fundamental issues.
A revealing study of the giant squatter settlements of Rio de Janeiro and of the vibrant communities of migrants who have risked everything to come to the city to provide more opportunities for their children, Favela offers a powerful look at one of the great challenges facing the modern world.
Perlman has produced an excellent, exhaustive study of life in the 1,020 favelas—squatter settlements in Rio de Janeiro—in this sequel to her 1976 book, The Myth of Marginality. Here she attempts to find and reinterview her subjects as well as their children and grandchildren. Her authoritative account based on interviews with almost 2,500 people (some of whom she has known for 40 years) blends detailed personal testimonies with ethnography and insightful analyses of the urbanization of poverty, the implications of public policy and the drug trade. Her measured approach is all the more compelling because as she investigates the deprivation and danger faced by favela dwellers—19% of the city's population—she also conveys a deep understanding that favelas are not merely despair-filled slums but communities, and many residents have remained there by choice. She is also insightful about the limitations of her own research and the conclusions that can be drawn from it, making her arguments all the more meaningful. Photos. (Feb.)