Revealing Curitiba's flawed sustainability: How discourse can prevent institutional change

Joyde Giacomini Martínez*, Ingrid Boas, Jennifer Lenhart, Arthur P.J. Mol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The city of Curitiba, Brazil, is considered an exceptional model of sustainable urban planning. It has received praise for its invention of the Bus Rapid Transit System and numerous awards identify Curitiba as one of the world's greenest cities. Controversial elements have, however, been left out of this hegemonic city discourse, along with inevitable new challenges. The aim of this article is two-fold. First, we assess whether Curitiba is living up to its reputation as a leading sustainable city by analyzing three areas of urban sustainable development: green spaces, water bodies and public transportation. We show how Curitiba experiences problems ranging from social exclusion resulting from green space policies, to polluted water bodies and hampered planning in the area of public transportation. Second, we examine how the Curitiba discourse as a leading sustainable city is able to endure in this changed material context. We demonstrate how this hegemonic discourse prevents institutional transformations: the discourse becomes reproduced by powerful networks and propaganda, masking new unsustainable realities and by the same token preventing fast and successful institutional renewal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-359
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Brazil
  • City planning
  • Discursive institutionalism
  • Institutional change
  • Urban sustainability


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