Slums: Note for an Urban Theory

  • Yves Pedrazzini
  • Jérôme Chenal
  • Jean-Claude Bolay
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL, volume 119)


Regarding the critique of urbanism and sociology of the fragmented city, slum theory aims at understanding in what ways slums reflect the segregated city and dominant urban order, when its inhabitants generally have neither the opportunity nor the means to resist this order, other than by increasing the informality of their urban integration.

In this chapter, we invert the usual position of city professionals, which consists in considering the slum as a problem in terms of property, services, equipment, health, violence, and insecurity. This reverse logic leads us to envisage slums not as problems, but rather as solutions – for innovative “good practices” of urban management in particular. But it is not enough: it is obviously a theoretical reversal, an element of urban and critical theory, which we use to foster a symbolic rehabilitation of the slums. That being said, we are endeavouring to “theorize” the slum as a novel agent of urban transformation, for which the position of an outsider enables us to reveal another layer of the contemporary city: social, cultural and economic fabric, as much urban as material, which may eventually allow the slums and their inhabitants to reaffirm their “right to the city”.

This theoretical stance obliges the scientists and policy makers to think differently and regard the slum as the missing piece of a history of urbanism in the twentieth century.


Urban Planning Urban Agriculture Urban Science Urban Rehabilitation Project Urban Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland

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