This article engages with the coproduction of urban space by focusing on a slum upgrading project in Recife, Brazil. It argues that the urban situation is essentially inconsistent, unpredictable and unstable. It documents the history of urban planning in Recife, paying special attention to the coexistence of two different planning traditions, one aimed at what city planners call the informal city, which is participatory, bottom up and democratic, yet susceptible to be corrupted by political clientelism, and another aimed at the formal city, which is ‘strategic’, top down, technocratic and neoliberal. It argues that the informal/formal binary operates as a disjunctive synthesis that separates social actors rather than connecting them and provides the coordinates within which processes of coproduction take place. The disjunctive synthesis renders possible all sorts of fantastic imaginations that both disavow and reveal the missing ground of the city. Community leaders play a central role in the coproduction of urban space and function as the symptom of this absent ground. The article concludes that participatory urban development interventions aiming to curtail the role of community leaders end up as veritable tyrannies of participation, which should be seen as evidence of the disjointed character of planning rather than as forms of effective governmentality.
- community leaders
- urban planning