Archive for April, 2021

Mike Davis (2006) Planet of Slums. Slums as Neoliberal Spaces and the Overurbanization of the Poor

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Slum, semi-slum, and super slum…
to this has come the evolution of cities.1
– Patrick Geddes (cited in Davis, 2006)

 

Mike Davis (2006) Planet of Slums begins his book with this quote from Patrick Geddes. Davis expands on this and writes that perhaps the future of cities is not as what past generations of urbanists had envisioned as ‘cities of light soaring toward heaven’ and ‘made out of glass and steel’ but instead what awaits is an overcrowded, highly polluted urban world of ‘squats in squalor’ surrounded by ‘excrement and decay’. A city constructed out of scraps, ‘crude brick, straw and recycled plastic’.2 It is thus a very distressing and pessimistic vision of the urban future, but it is important to note that in many poorer nations, this is already an ongoing and grim reality for many of its growing cities. Although written 15 years ago, Planet of Slums is still as compelling and as relevant today. In this book, Davis excavates various details regarding the proliferation of slums. Taking into account historic (colonial) roots as wells as its development upto the present and how it became deeply linked with the formation of the third world. As Davis explains, the neoliberal restructuring of the political economy that arose from the late 1970s, led by financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has to a considerable extent reconfigured the economic trajectory of many developing countries through policies of downsizing and redistribution of public spending and the enforcement of Structural Adjustments Programs (provisional loans or debt entrenchment disguise as developmental aid). As David Harvey (2007) also explains, neoliberalism refers to an economic policy through the liberalization of trade and finance i.e., free trade, and privatization through property rights, encouraging individual capital freedom, whilst limiting state intervention through deregulation and withdrawal on many aspects regarding social provisions. Neoliberal processes entail the forceful expulsion of people, often from the peasantry and poorer groups, due to policies of land commodification and through the conversion of common collective rights into private property rights.3 A form of systematic dispossession that remained as the dominant framework of contemporary capitalism. The transfer of common land rights to privatization have thus divested common people out of their homes, not only that it meant the proliferation of poverty, but it also meant loss of secure tenure and livelihood among many marginalized communities.

Estimates directs that more than half of the world’s population now resides in cities. It has been projected that by the year 2050, about 90 percent of population increase will occur in the already exploding cities of poorer nations.4 Rapid urbanization is a recent phenomenon among developing nations and the growth of slum populations has increased during the 1990s and has ever since continuing in an upward trend.5 The major lack of adequate provisions for social infrastructure and accommodations for the poor such as public housing in par with rapid urbanization has been one of the most pressing issue intricately link with the persistence and the proliferation of slums. Due to the rapid pace of urban growth along with the mass exodus of rural populations into cities, it is evident that slums are increasingly becoming the paradigm of spatial formation of major cities in the global south. According to United Nations UNSD report (2019) there are now more than a billion people living in the slums. As indicated further in the UNSD report, 80 percent of urban slum populations or informal settlements can be attributed within the regions of the global south. Slum populations in East and South Asia accounts to about 370 million, sub-Saharan with 238 million and Central and south Asia at about 227 million.6 Slum growth is still increasing at an unprecedented speed and has been projected to escalate further. It has been estimated that by the year 2030, 1 in every 4 people will be living in the slums7. The slums thus mark a key element of contemporary urbanization and is increasingly becoming a central theme within the development global urban transformation.

The term slum (squatters/shantytowns/barrios/favelas) is often synonymous with descriptions such as abject poverty and environmental deterioration. In the general context, slums are defined by a vast urban agglomeration of informal settlements characterized by its dense population and are often located at the periphery of the city. Due to its informal character, the majority of its inhabitants lacks access to basic services such as clean water and sanitation, they also lack secure tenure and are often prone to evictions and dislocation. These spaces are often situated within hazardous, highly polluted, and congested spaces of the city. Although casts at margins of the city, considered ‘unmapped’ and ‘undeveloped’, nestled within them are the lives of those excluded, where the underprivileged majority have been forced to sought refuge in their struggle for the right to the city. The proliferation and persistence of the slums is thus a manifestation of social exclusion in the city, wherein spatial inequality becomes the visible outcome of a deprived population as a result of economic and social injustices waged upon by regimes that prioritizes private interest over the the well-being of communities and the environment. The slums, therefore, is a testimony to the inevitable yet violent frontier process of urbanization when subjected to the dictums of capitalistic forces and the failure of governance. Within the neoliberal logic, privatization and commodification of spaces continues to prevail. Davis explains that ever since the formation of these policies, it has not only proliferated an increase in urban poverty, the growth of slums is already outpacing urbanization. And thus, as Davis writes, overurbanization has simply become a ‘reproduction of poverty’8.

 

Lauren Solomon

Bibliography 

1,2,8 Davis Mike. (2006) Planet of Slums. Verso.

3 David Harvey. (2007). Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610(1), 22-44.

 4 United Nations 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects (2018). World Urbanization Prospects. The 2018 Revision. https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html

5 United Nations Human Settlements Programme. (2012). The Challenge of Slums Global Report on Human Settlements 2003. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. https://unhabitat.org/the-challenge-of-slums-global-report-on-human-settlements-2003

6 United Nations Statistics Division. (2019).—SDG Indicators. unstats.un. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/goal-11/

7 What is a Slum? Definition of a Global Housing Crisis. (n.d.). Habitat for Humanity GB.https://www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/what-we-do/slum-rehabilitation/what-is-a-slum/

Nomadland, The narrator of movement and settlement

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Nomadland is a movie written, produced and directed by Cloe Zhao and published in 2020. It has wined lots of artistic awards such as Golden Globe 2021 in both Best director and Best motion picture, and Venice Film Festival 2020 in Golden Lion for best film, Fair play cinema and Honorable mention. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves her home forcefully and lives in her van. Empire, a company town for US Gypsum Corporation disappeared since closing mines and leaving labors. Fran was living in Empire with her husband when he worked in gypsum mines. She lost her husband and it was the start of her nomadic life.

The story of movie is a straight line. It is about a period of a woman’s life. But interestingly the movie isn’t story centric. It is about the trajectory of changing in a woman’s characteristics. Fran is mostly seen in moving during the whole film but just while she is moving, she has settled down. Firstly it looks paradoxical, but it’s real. She has stuck in her memories and doesn’t like to stop and settle down in a real place since she doesn’t feel any attachment and belonging. Memories of her husband are strongly alive in her life and she tries to keep them alive by saving stuff that she and her husband had memories with them. Nostalgia and love of her husband are just like a circle that continuously doesn’t let her to feel belonging to any specific place but her home in Empire. She said that she is not homeless but houseless, and we can see that she attaches to her “home” in Empire. The golden sentence of this movie is a sentence that is quoted from Fran’s father: “what has remembered is alive”. Although Fran tries to leave her memories and start a new life until the end of movie, but the end scene shows that she had a long way to get her home, a long way as a long road.

This movie seems to be more symbolic than a true story of a person. Empire is the symbol of traditional and old-fashioned life of people and Fran is the symbol of people who forced to move because of modern life and modern world. She looks like a particularlist person, a person who attaches to a particular place, things, people and memories. She likes moving but at the same time she brings all her stuff that related to her attachment to old-fashioned world, since she is alive with them, she needs them, because it is her “home”. The movie shows us fantastically the feeling of belonging, the concept of “home” and the influence of having and keeping “nostalgia” in this feeling. Director tries to tell us that we can keep nostalgias for granted since we will see our beloved future at the end of the road and the modern world cannot through away all our belongings. Finally this movie is one of recommendations for those people who want to know better about the concept of “home” and “nostalgia”.

 

Fatemeh Shirazizadeh

Welcome to A Decolonial View

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Welcome to this decolonial student-led blog! We who run the blog are the current class in the masters programme Colonial and Postcolonial Studies in Linneaus University, in Växjö, Sweden. The ten of us make out a small and diverse group of students, with different experiences of academia as well as of colonialism/decolonialism. This blog will hopefully become a valuable platform for us to exchange ideas and to get to use in practice what we learn theoretically in the classroom. To start things of, we have all answered a couple of questions about ourselves as an introduction.

 

Frantzeska Papadopoulou Skarp

Who am I: Frantzeska Papadopoulou Skarp, a Greek living in Sweden.

What discipline am I from: I come from the field of legal sciences in which I have been conducting research for the past twenty years.W

hy did I choose this programme: I chose this programme because I am very much interested in colonial and post-colonial legislation and I wanted to get acquainted with the theoretical and methodological framework.

What has been most interesting so far in this program? It has been really a great experience, lots of new things to learn, exciting discussions and challenging tasks.

 

Cheng-fen Wang

My name is Cheng-fen Wang. I am from Taiwan, a place of conflicts because of the postcolonial era. I have finished my studies in Taiwan in Journalism. To be honest, I am a bit shy even though I have been a journalist for a few years. Few years later, I realized myself and would like to continue to study. At the beginning, I’m interested in International Relations, however, the Postcolonial Faculty seems more interesting. Eventually, I chose Postcolonial Faculty as my profession. Insofar, I enjoy literature most, particularly in postcolonial literature. I have read numerous classical pieces no matter from the East or the West. Somehow, it is still not enough for the scope of literature is extensive. It is always good to stay hungry, stay foolish.

 

Fatemeh Shirazizadeh

My name is Fatemeh Shirazizadeh. I was born in 1981 in Iran.my studies were about comparative religion and mysticism; I graduated in master in 2008 from Azad University. My Master thesis is about Pluralism in the World Religion. It was the translation of a book with the same name written by Harold Coward into Farsi and a brief research about pluralism in religion.

I stated my job as a volunteer teacher in educational ministry in Iran and after some years worked as an English teacher for beginners in IranMehr English Institute. Although I loved my academic major, but there were never opportunity to work directly in that region. Therefore I decided to continue my education and take a chance in another country. I could get the Colonial and Postcolonial Studies in LNU in 2020 and this was my best chance in my whole life. At first it looks strange and hard for me to study in LNU since I didn’t have any foreign experience before but after a while I understood that how much I like it and it is good opportunity for me to work about subjects that I like.

 

Fahmid Islam

1) What is your name?

Answer: Fahmid Islam

2) Where are you from?

Answer: I am from Bangladesh, a South Asian country.

3) What is your academic background?

Answer: I have post-graduation in English literature.

4) Why did you choose this programme at LNU?

Answer: I would like to get thorough understanding of post coloniality and decolonization; I also want to find out the reasons of migration of South Asian people to Europe especially to Nordic countries.

5) What is something from these 1.5 semesters that has made an impact on you?

Answer: Various theories learned through these courses, particularly different migration theories have opened up vision about current scenarios regarding increasing maltreatment towards migrants around the world.

 

Ejner Pedersen Trenter

My name is Ejner Pedersen Trenter, and I am at the time of writing living in Malmö, which is also where I received my bachelor’s in international relations. My main focus was on issues of sovereignty and political myth, something which I have carried with me over to this masters’s programme. While IR is a field of study which has seen a high level of progression over the last years, there is s

till a need for a strong, decolonial dimension, something which unfortunately is rather under researched. The focus of this programme, which is on literature, social work and history, is a brilliant way to find new ways of analysing the political world, through a more intersectional lens.

 

Mehvish Tania

My name is Mehvish Tania.

I am from Pakistan.

I have done a master in English literature from Pakistan and an MBA in marketing from South Korea in marketing. I have teaching experience in Pakistan.

I chose this programme because I am very much interested in historical information and postcolonial literature and I have another master in English literature and during the master I chose a postcolonial subject that was very interesting. I chose the programme because I want to know more about postcolonial literature.

This 1.5 semester made a very deep impact on my life because I have learnt so much about literature totally with a new aspect. This span of time increased my knowledge and experience of study as well.

 

Katarzyna Kiryluk

My name is Katarzyna and the discipline of my biggest interest is education. However, I have chosen this programme as I believe that getting another perspective in looking at the contemporary world may help me in becoming a better teacher. Also, what I have realised after a while, the covered material and conversations are the most fascinating aspects of the programme. They do not only help in understanding colonialism and postcolonialism, but also help me in developing intercultural competences thanks to which I start to understand my country and culture better – which itself is fascinating.

 

Alva Blomkvist

My name is Alva Blomkvist. I have a bachelor’s degree in history from Umeå University, Sweden. I grew up in the north of Sweden, also known as Sápmi – indigenous Sámi land. While studying history in a northern university (that arguably should be oriented towards indigenous history) I was made very aware the lack of interest in the topic of Swedish colonialism in Sweden today, inside and outside of academia. I was drawn to this programme to fill the gaps my bachelor’s studies left in the topic of colonialism. My favorite thing about the programme so far is the way it challenges us of thinking not only about colonialism in history and today, but in the struggle of decolonialism now and in the future.

 

Lauren Solomon

My name is Lauren Solomon and I was born in Manila, Philippines and I moved to Sweden when I was still in my teens. I have a bachelor degree in Fine Arts with a major in Visual Communication, which is a programme oriented towards questions of social, environmental and political issues both on the local and global context. One of the projects that I worked on in my bachelor studies was about the issue of poverty in the neocolonial Philippines. While in the course of the project, I stumbled upon a question posed by Filipino activist Alejandro Lichauco. In paraphrasing Lichauco, he asks— why is there mass hunger in this land of plenty? how can such opulence exist alongside unnecessary (and vicious) deprivation? how then to set forth the process of (real) decolonization? These are the questions that I also aim to find explanations for and expand on further. In choosing Colonial and Postcolonial Studies many of the themes we discuss in this programme already poses these very notorious questions. My early encounters with Postcolonial studies was through my readings of Edward Said’s (1978) Orientalism and Frantz Fanon’s (1961) Wretched of the Earth. Wanting to delve more and better understand these issues had been some of the reasons that prompted me to apply to this master programme. As an individual growing up in a complicated intermixture of cultures, from (ex) colonial Philippines, then as a migrant and as a diasporic identity, I relate to both of Said’s and Fanon’s writing. I always felt that I am in the borderline of contrasting worlds and speaking impartially yet ineloquently in these hotchpotch of languages (Tagalog/Spanish/English/Swedish). Straddling the fence between these different worlds (tropic/ nordic/monsoon/winter), all seemingly incongruent, yet they are worlds I constantly navigate to as well as re-negotiate their many clashing meanings. Perhaps as Edward Said might also say —(we are) I am simultaneously —outside, inside and between these worlds. I do feel closely to all of the courses that I have encountered in this programme. Some of the elective courses that made an impact on me recently was on Modern Natures and Postcolonial Ecologies in which I explore topics regarding rivers, urbanization and the persistence of slums. Another recent and very interesting elective course I had was on Postcolonial Studies in Comparative Literature where we discussed on themes of postcolonial identities and hybridity as well as issues on climate change and how to extend understandings and concepts of nature beyond Anthropogenic claims. And Lastly, I would like to impart here a quote I often return to as I read Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth:

 

“Hence the dreams of the colonial subject are muscular dreams, dreams of action, dreams of aggressive vitality. I dream I am jumping, swimming, running, and climbing. I dream I burst out laughing, I am leaping across a river and chased by a pack of cars that never catches up with me.”.