By Catherine Sutherland, Einar Braathen, Véronique Dupont, David Jordhus-Lier, Liliana Miranda, Rommy Torres


Literature Review No.2 - March 2011


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This literature review presents the theoretical framework for research which examines, through the lens of sub-standard settlements, the politics and policies shaping urban inequality in ten cities in Brazil, India, Peru and South Africa. The development of this theoretical frame requires comparative reflection, as the theory chosen reveals how cities (usually north-south and in this case south-south) and spaces within cities (wealthy, middle class and poor) are positioned in relation to each other. Sub-standard settlements invoke a recognition, understanding and sometimes even a tacit ‘acceptance’ of poverty, inequality, poor quality of life and lack of development in developing world cities. They generally lead researchers to the theory and spaces of cities that have not achieved ‘modernisation’. Robinson (2010) however, argues for a more open, comparative approach, where theory on cities, which has predominantly been developed in relation to cities in the north, challenges the assumptions made about the ordering of cities, or spaces within cities, along modern and non-modernist lines. She suggests that questions should be asked about processes in cities across the world, thinking more critically about similarities and differences and challenging the usual divides which order cities.


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