Sunday, 14 August 2011

Apocalyptic anti-urbanism: Mike Davis and his planet of slums

by Tom Angotti, 2006

The title of Mike Davis’ latest tome should make every progressive cringe. Boston’s Mel King, prominent African-American community activist, once said that for him the term slum meant that ‘somebody else defined my community in a way that allowed them to justify destruction of it’. Slum clearance was the high-minded objective of the federal urban renewal program in the US, the program that displaced millions of people, disproportionately poor and African-American. Around the world today, working people are evicted by governments and private developers who have determined that their neighborhoods are hopeless ‘slums’ filled with disease, crime, and unemployment, problems which they claim will go away once the people are out of sight and cities stop growing. While ‘slum’ is used in other parts of the world without the negative connotation it enjoys in the US, such homogenizing labels continue to obscure both the underlying relations of social and political inequality and an increasingly complex urban world.

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