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Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro 1st Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195368369
ISBN-10: 0195368363
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Perlman has produced an excellent, exhaustive study of life in the 1,020 favelas—squatter settlements in Rio de Janeiro—in this sequel to her 1976 book, The Myth of Marginality. Here she attempts to find and reinterview her subjects as well as their children and grandchildren. Her authoritative account based on interviews with almost 2,500 people (some of whom she has known for 40 years) blends detailed personal testimonies with ethnography and insightful analyses of the urbanization of poverty, the implications of public policy and the drug trade. Her measured approach is all the more compelling because as she investigates the deprivation and danger faced by favela dwellers—19% of the city's population—she also conveys a deep understanding that favelas are not merely despair-filled slums but communities, and many residents have remained there by choice. She is also insightful about the limitations of her own research and the conclusions that can be drawn from it, making her arguments all the more meaningful. Photos. (Feb.)
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"Perlman returned repeatedly to the famed slums of Rio de Janeiro to follow four generations of residents over 40 years. She writes with compassion, artistry, and intelligence, using stirring personal stories to illustrate larger points substantiated with statistical analysis." --Foreign Affairs

"With a scope that betrays her passion for her subjects, Perlman easily oscillates between narrative and statistical analyses, reporting on touching personal events as well as on larger issues of violence, marginality, and globalization. Perlman is as curious as she is thorough, providing exhaustive research and succeeding in supplying a cohesive and often awing account of the complexities and humanity in Rio's favelas." --The Global Journal

"A valuable and vivid study of life as it has been lived by the poor in one of Latin America's biggest cities." --Times Literary Supplement

"Janice Perlman is one of the leading researchers on urban marginality, and Favela is an exceptional analysis of the evolution of several originally informal settlement over four decades. I highly recommend it as reading for students, urban practitioners, and policy makers." --Manuel Castells, author of The Information Age

"Janice Perlman has written a moving account of her experience over four decades studying, living and working in three of Rio's favelas. This work will appeal to academics--it is full of fine analytical work, as well as to the reader who is concerned with understanding poverty and social justice and how millions in Brazil are trapped by their environment, lack of education and now by crime and violence. While the location of this work is Rio, the lessons and challenges of poverty in big cities is of importance to us all, as the world moves to 2050 when 75% of the population will be in urban areas." --James D. Wolfensohn, Former President, The World Bank

"Perlman has produced an excellent, exhaustive study of life in the 1,020 favelas- squatter settlements in Rio de Janeiro..." --Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Enlightening and exceptional." --Library Journal

"Perlman seeks to recover stories of people and families with whom she had contact in the late 1960s. As such, her work offers a great contribution, since she incorporates a longitudinal analysis over a long time span... Perlman's narrative is pure delicacy and poetry when she portrays slums as places where friendship, affection, and popular culture prevail." --Contemporary Sociology


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195368363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195368369
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janice Perlman is President and Founder of the Mega-Cities Project. Winner of a Guggenheim Award, she has been Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of California-Berkeley, Visiting Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Columbia University, and a Senior Research Scholar at New York University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Murphy on July 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to be invited to the book launch party for this book. Dr. Perlman gave a very engaging talk about the findings of her study which eventually became Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro, which made me want to read her book. I was not disappointed. As a college student I have read many sociological and anthropological studies which have become books. Although they were informative, they were all lacking any personal connection with the people in the areas being discussed and any follow-up research. Perlman's personal connection to Rio de Janeiro and the people who she has studied over the past forty years transforms her study into a gripping account of the past and new struggles of those living in favelas. After reading Favela, my perception and understanding of squatter settlements was completely transformed. People living in favelas are truly victims of the drug trade which has erupted around them. Drug trade has turned vibrant communities into isolated, fearful collections of streets. Residents have managed to overcome illiteracy and lack of access to education, but favelados will need the help of Brazil's police to win back their communities from drug gangs.

Perlman also forced me to consider an uncomfortable reality. Favela residents are not the primary consumers of drugs, residents of the barrios (legal neighborhoods) are supporting the trade. They also glamorize favelas, and attend parties in them. Younger generations in the United States are guilty of doing similar things in their glorifications of rap stars and the gangster lifestyle. The highly publicized drug wars in Mexico have shed light on the United States' role in them, in which the United States has been found to be supplying arms to drug cartels.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L. Gott on June 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. I have read about half of it, but couldn't wait to post a review and my highest recommendation. Dr. Perlman, professor and founder/president of the Mega-Cities Project, shares the stories of people she has followed over four decades in the favela and conjunto communities of Rio de Janeiro (such as Nova Brasilia and Catacumba). For example, she tells the story of Ze Cabo, once the president of the Residents' Association in Nova Brasilia, and his extended family. Such multigenerational stories of people's lives also become the story of her life, doing the work of understanding, appreciating, and participating in the lives of Rio's urban poor, and communicating accurately and insightfully about them. The word "favela" was only slightly known to me before, but I am so glad I picked up this book in the library (and ordered my own copy). The evolving nature of these communities is explored with factual clarity (and documentation), with compassion and empathy, but never with sentimentalism. Yet Dr. Perlman's deep involvement with her life's work and those who have made it possible by opening their homes to her shines through every page, with passion and intense commitment. The section in her Introduction titled "Why I Love Favelas" may open your eyes and change your minds, if you have a preconceived notion of the towns blanketing the hills of Rio, away from Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. If you have a desire to better understand where the world is headed in the next century as our largest cities become "mega-cities," you could not find a better introduction to the heart of the matter.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BMc2323 on August 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a masterful study based on decades of research. The author and a team of research assistants followed up with the same extended families interviewed for Perlman's first book thirty years ago. In the intervening years Rio and its favelas changed radically--while the favelas are far better off in most material ways, their residents face much greater threats of everyday violence, in ways that have been routinized into the life of the city. The favelas have been unofficially zoned for violence. Their residents continue to aspire to live "normal" urban lives pursuing education, opportunity and community connections, but avoiding and surviving violence have become the new normal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PBerryman on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have read and used Janice Perlman's Favela in teaching a class on Latin America at Temple University this past semester. Here are some reasons why I like the book and believe it may become a social science classic:
* the deft combination of personal stories and data
* the longitudinal and intergenerational aspect
* the clear writing, typically stating the issues at the start of a chapter and then showing how the findings were reached and what they mean
* the ability to handle complexity: people's lives improved over the decades but the stigma of being a favelado remains
* the importance given to variations in individuals and households
* the strong moral core that seems to have guided her research and writing over the decades, which is grounded in real people
* discerning what the people want as opposed to the experts and NGOs, e.g., the simple finding that what people most want is decent reliable dignified work and the harm done when that is not available
* linkage of issues in the communities studied to the rest of the city of Rio, Brazil, and the world.
Her findings square with my own experience decades ago in a barrio of Panama City. Contrary to stereotypes the people worked in the government or the private sector or as self-employed. Like the favelados they were part of the fabric of the city but were stigmatized by where they lived.

The effort by the state of Rio to wrest control of favelas from the drug gangs, as exemplified in the November 2010 assault on two favelas makes the book all the more relevant.
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