Just like the name of this blog site suggest: favelissues, favelas are “issues” to be taken care of, that need everyone’s attention since the favelas are places where development is reworked, reconstituted and, most importantly, contested. Development is produced through a series of urban interventions that seek to manage and control natural and social resources.
Favelas are, in this narrative, development’s symptomatic effect, it’s issue: while development brings social order and peace, it also carries poverty, pollution, and violence, indeed, development is a double edge sword and favelas are the wounds that bleed where the first world meets the third, as Gloria Anzaldúa puts it.
The political narrative of the favelas as the “issue” of progress is part of a global agenda advanced by supranational institutions like the UN, the World Bank, and the IMF, seeking to penetrate “from below”, from the urban poor themselves, and inoculate a subjectivation/subjection project through resilience, that is, through the survival of development’s inevitable counter effects, leaving it’s basic premises intact.
The predicate informal in urban informality implies formless: the absence of all form, and yet, as Ananya Roy explains, informality is rather a strategy deployed by powerful groups trying to gain control over urban production and infrastructure. How is informality produced? Are favelas the quintessential product of informality or is there a bigger picture being hidden? In the first place, favelas have become synonymous with underdevelopment in the vocabulary and syntax of the global agenda, which has made poor people’s agency its main target. Thus, informality renders poor people’s everyday practices as “deficient”, “unproductive”, and therefore, problematic for global governmentality.
Notwithstanding, the favelas are becoming more complex and defying to current mapping epistemologies–– as it is clear with the mega-slums of Mumbai, Mexico City, for instance ––and have proliferated well into the hearts of the cities they “parasite” or “leach” on, as to blur the difference between the two. Therefore, I would like to suggest that favelas are not an “issue” of development, rather, development is an issue for favelados. In other words, development should be understood as a political burden that the poorest have to “carry in their backs”, so to speak, and favelas are the urban materialization of such burden.