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Housing the Majority

Tue, Mar 10, 2015

In recent decades, debates on slums and the future of urban life have raged. Novelists, filmmakers, academics, cultural institutions, NGOs, foundations, and think tanks from across the political spectrum have offered ways to alternately upgrade, reinforce, preserve, integrate, and learn from these precarious landscapes, highlighting their many complex socio-spatial questions.

In Housing the Majority, scholars, architects, urban planners, artists, and activists gather from global cities with soaring rates of inequality—Cairo, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Mumbai, Istanbul, and London—to define the terms of the debate. Moving beyond traditional and quantifiable definitions of informality, the panels focus on politics, representation, governance, and form as entry points to the difficult humanitarian challenges to “housing the majority.”

Organized by Dean Amale Andraos and Studio-X Amman, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro, with support from the Columbia Global Centers



Amale Andraos, Dean, Columbia University GSAPP Safwan Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development, Columbia University

I. Politics


What are slums? Is the term “slums” self-evident? How can it be understood historically, legally, and politically?

Maria Alice Rezende Carvalho, Sociology, PUC-Rio, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro

David Madden, London School of Economics

Claudia Gastrow, University of the Witwatersrand

Response by Reinhold Martin, Columbia University GSAPP, and Mpho Matsipa, Studio-X Johannesburg

II. Representation


How does representation of informal places and their constituents affect political voice and agency? How does visibility create opportunities for political change?

Alfredo Brillembourg, Urban Think Tank, ETH Zurich

Ramin Bahrani, Columbia University School of the Arts

Jaílson de Silva Souza, Ashoka Innovators for the Public;

Observatorio de Favelas

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Response by Hilary Sample, Columbia University GSAPP, Nora Akawi, Studio-X Amman, and Rajeev Thakker, Studio-X Mumbai

III. Governance


What is at stake in formalizing the informal, or, when people are given rights and incentives to build? How do forces of real estate development and the law spur change, and who protects the public good within shifting social and political frameworks?

Yaşar Adnan Adanalı, activist, Reclaim Istanbul Guilherme Boulos, MTST, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto Myriam Ababsa, Institut Français du Proche-Orient Response by Clara Irazábal, Columbia University GSAPP, and Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Thomsen, Studio-X Istanbul

IV. Form


How does the form of unplanned areas produce or inform social relations? What can official planning procedures learn from urban informality?

Tatiana Bilbao, architect Rohan Shivkumar, KRIVA, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, Mumbai Rainer Hehl, ETH Zurich Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker, CLUSTER, Cairo Lab for Urban Studies

Response by Geeta Mehta, Columbia University GSAPP, and Pedro Rivera, Studio-X Rio de Janeiro

V. Keynote Address


David Sims, political economist and author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control