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Slum politics

Community leaders, everyday needs, and utopian aspirations in Recife, Brazil

Martijn Koster and Pieter A. de Vries

This article envisages slum dwellers' politics in Recife, Brazil as a realm of possibility in which care and recognition are central. Community leaders are its main facilitators as articulators of slum dwellers' needs and aspirations. The article's notion of slum politics is an elaboration of Chatterjee's (2004) ideas on popular politics as a “politics of the governed.“ Yet the article critiques the governmentality perspective for its inability to envisage a politics of hope and possibility. It distinguishes among slum politics, governmental politics (projects and programs), and electoral politics (voting), which are entwined and interdependent, but different. Zooming in on a community leader's urban agriculture project, the article argues that this project, which from an outsiders' perspective may be considered non-viable, provided slum dwellers with possibilities to strive for community solidarity and personal recognition. Slum politics, the article concludes, is about claiming the right to be counted and recognized, and about the care for the other.