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Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World [Hardcover]

Robert Neuwirth
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)


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Book Description

November 29, 2004 0521379393 978-0415933193
In almost every country of the developing world, the most active builders are squatters, creating complex local economies with high rises, shopping strips, banks, and self-government. As they invent new social structures, Neuwirth argues, squatters are at the forefront of the worldwide movement to develop new visions of what constitutes property and community.


Visit Robert Neuwirth's blog at: http://squatterci ty.blogspot.com


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this superbly probing book, investigative reporter Neuwirth relates the struggles and successes of some of the world's most resourceful poor people, among the one billion urban squatters in countries like Brazil, India, Kenya and Turkey. Having lived alongside them in these four countries and thus gained firsthand knowledge of their daily lives, Neuwirth is able to dismantle many common preconceptions about the so-called slums in which they live. The vast, bustling favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, for example, has distinct neighborhoods, apartments for rent, dance parties in the street and local entrepreneurs, as well as drug lords and gangs. In Nairobi's Kibera, many squatters have white-collar jobs, yet lack the income to rent more than a simple mud hut. Clarifying local legal considerations and housing policy city by city, Neuwirth closely attends to the characters, historical particularities and human potential of the squatter communities he encounters. In his concluding chapters, he pulls back to address the U.N.'s role in ameliorating squatters' problems and polarizing notions of property ownership, among other issues. Pointing out that many major cities were founded on squatter-style neighborhoods, Neuwirth treats readers to some fascinating historical case studies in London and New York. Compelling, thought-provoking and written with laconic grace, Neuwirth's study is essential reading for anyone interested in global urban affairs. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

'Neuwirth gets the lowdown on the low life by becoming a resident of four of the most happening squatopolises: the thriving extralegal pockets of Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, and Rio. His ghetto epiphanies include impeccable civility, self-organizing local governments, bustling economies, modest crime rates, and squatter millionaires.' - Josh McHugh,Wired


'Urban squatters - families that risk the wrath of governments and property owners by building dwellings on land they don't own - represent one out of every ten people on the planet. Squatters create complex local economies with high rises, shopping strips, banks, and self-government in their search for decent places to live. This book reveals squatter communities from Rio to Bombay that give a glimpse into our urban future and show new visions of what constitutes property and community.' - architecture week


'Shadow Cities is at its best shining an investigative lens into areas of urban life that have seldom been described before. It is a wonderful story of the vitality and creativity of ordinary people who have managed to survive and sometimes even prosper in the face of government indifference if not hostility.' - Robert H. Nelson, a professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy; Reason Magazine


'[A] superbly probing book...Compelling, thought-provoking and written with laconic grace, Neuwirth's study is essential reading for anyone interested in global urban affairs.' -Publisher's Weekly


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (November 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521379393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415933193
  • ASIN: 0415933196
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 101 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Haphazard Letdown April 21, 2006
Format:Paperback
This rather haphazard book functions well as a sociological portrait of four squatter cities as well as a spirited PR piece for the people living there, but fails on other fronts. The best parts are the first four chapters, which outline Neuwirth's field work in the shantytowns of Rio, Nairobi, Mumbai, and Istanbul. This consisted of living in situ for several months and talking to as many people as possible in order to get the pulse of a place. These 150 pages are fairly engaging insider views of places few of us are likely to venture, and are worth reading as a kind of non-traditional travelogue.

The book really loses its way after this. There is a meandering chapter about urban squatting throughout time, including snippets on ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Victorian London, '20s Shanghai, and various cities in the U.S. This is followed by another meandering chapter about squatters in New York over the last 150 years. Both of these contains some interesting stories and factoids, but fail to cohere into anything more than that. Next is a brief, rather snide chapter skewering the efforts of the NGO Habitat, which takes the rather predictable line that well-intentioned aid from outsiders accomplishes nothing. Then a chapter addressing crime in the four communities he lived in -- why this needs to be broken out into it's own chapter is unclear. Next is a rather muddled chapter on the concept of "property" and the various theoretical tugs-of-war surrounding it, which feels quite like the obligatory "theory" chapter of a Master's thesis.

A rather significant flaw running through the book is that Neuwirth writes as if his readers all hold some kind of ridiculous stereotype about who lives in shantytowns.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Building the Cities of Tomorrow March 2, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A billion squatters living around the world and the number is growing. This book gives us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of 4 distinct squatter communities: Rocinha (Rio de Janeiro); Southland (Nairobi, Kenya); Squatter Colony (Mumbai {Bombay}); and Sultanbeyli (Istanbul).

Taking up residency in these neighborhoods, the author found not only the most dismal of living conditions (piles of trash lining the streets; no running water, sewers or toilets), he also found lively, hard-working, resourceful and optimistic inhabitants.

What surprised me most was learning that many of those who live in these squatter communities actually prefer to live there rather than to be relocated to government housing. For example, in one area of Rio, there is a city housing project which consists of concrete apartment buildings. The buildings themselves are crumbling and the grounds are littered with garbage and broken glass. There is a sense of hopelessness. In contrast, living in a squatter town, one is not restricted to a single concrete room. One can build a mud hut initially and enlarge, upgrade or even tear down and rebuild in brick or wood. If one is resourceful, one can build an extra room to rent out or even open a business. This gives a squatter a sense of pride and a sense of being in control of his own destiny.

This is not a romanticized look at squatters, though. Much is said of the opposition these residents face at the hands of the the politicians, the land developers, the wealthy, and the press. Problems with crime and drugs are also addressed. But it would be hard to walk away from this book and not feel sympathy and respect for these people.

The number of squatters living in these communities worldwide is expected to reach 2 billion by 2030.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous missed opportunity March 13, 2005
By Feynman
Format:Hardcover
Shadow Cities is a very good idea for a book, and an utterly important topic, but the Neuwirth clearly didn't put in the time it would have taken to write the important book that the topic demands. Here are my major concerns: 1) Neuwirth doesn't understand the intellectual history of shantytowns and squatting. For example, in the prologue, his examination of Hernando de Soto's ideas is laughably brief, and it's clear he doesn't understand de Soto's ideas. Nor does he give them the analysis they deserve. 2) The book is extremely short (it's printed in type so large that I initially thought I had the large print edition), and reads like a sketch for a much longer (and better-researched) book. After discussing four squatter communities, it appears that he runs out things to say, and he jumps into a discursive overview of American squatter history that often neglects to include dates, places, or enough detail to make his point clearly. 3) Neuwirth writes, I must say, like a hack journalist. Overused metaphors, florid language, and imprecise descriptions abound. Was he on deadline, or did he just not care? I'm rarely this critical of books. I just think Neuwirth missed a tremendous opportunity, and it shows.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing documentary concerning shantytowns March 14, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Investigative reporter Rober Neuwirth personally spent two years living in squatter neighborhoods on four continents, and from that experience presents Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World an engrossing documentary concerning shantytowns and those who live within them - estimated to be a billion individuals, and projected to grow to two billion. Though shantytowns are feared as centers of decay and lawlessness, Neuwirth discovered thriving and vital communities striving to build liveable quarters in an era when private developers charge far more than individuals can afford. One squatter home in Rio de Janeiro is a three-room apartment with tile floors, a full bathroom, an eat-in kitchen, electricity, running water, and a balcony with a view of the ocean. Though Shadow Cities understands that the reality of squatters may be gritty, it reveals hope in the character of those who live humbly, and reveals that squatters will build vibrant neighborhoods without private titles as long as they know they are not subject to eviction. A probing and highly recommended scrutiny of all dimensions of a critical worldwide phenomenon.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, dignified fact of life in squatter areas including...
I am fascinated by the attitudes of many whom the author met in the study of these cities as he lived in each country. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Katie Who
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
A good read that comprehensively details Neuwirth's multi-year journey and experiences in four different squatter communities. Read more
Published 20 months ago by corrinn01
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON
I READ THIS BOOK JUST BEFORE I SPENT THREE WEEKS IN KENYA AT THE KIBERA SQUATTER CITY. BOOK PROVIDES A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON, HELPED ME INTERACT WITH A MICRO... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Donna C. Agata
4.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous start, disastrous dissappointment
I will go to my main point on this book by Mr. Neuwirth, the first chapters are engaging and very interesting to read. Read more
Published on May 11, 2012 by Overman89
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible
Being an American citizen of color, I have traveled and lived abroad in other countries for durations of more than 2 years (the amount of time the author has spent in each city and... Read more
Published on April 9, 2011 by traveler01
3.0 out of 5 stars A great start, but a disappointing finish
I have to admit that I was disappointed. When I heard that an author had lived in four different slums. Read more
Published on September 3, 2010 by Clint Kuipers
3.0 out of 5 stars Neuwirth's Critique of Land Titling
In Shadow Cities, Robert Neuwirth asserts that squatter communities are effective despite the lack of formal law or law enforcement. Read more
Published on September 20, 2008 by Louis Dezseran
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, Of Passing Utility
This book was very disappointing. Although at 54 I am getting to the point where I need granny glasses to read those books where the print is too fine, this book goes way in... Read more
Published on October 3, 2006 by Robert David STEELE Vivas
5.0 out of 5 stars Myths are dispelled and realities outlined
SHADOW CITIES: A BILLION SQUATTERS, A NEW URBAN WORLD confronts the issue of nations of squatters. Cities are home to a billion such squatters and that number is projected to... Read more
Published on September 23, 2006 by Midwest Book Review
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
This is one of the best books I have read in a while. The author - Robert Neuwirth - lived in four slum areas in or near major cities in the third world and then reported what he... Read more
Published on August 12, 2006 by Sariputra
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