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9183 - The visible and invisible boundaries for the urban poor in the city centre of São Paulo: criminalization of poverty as action of inner-city regeneration

Since two decades there are attempts of urban renewal in the city centre of São Paulo, following the global trends. The general discourse centres on the necessity of the “revitalization” of these areas. In doing so, the city centre is considered either empty or of inappropriate use. This generally middle- and upper-class vision neglects the existing utilization and appropriation of this area principally by the socially deprived population, such as homeless, drug addicts, informal street vendors and scavengers as well as prostitutes. The regeneration measures taken frequently arose and arise from urbanism and often consider the task as a mere technical one. Nevertheless the implemented plans often contribute constructing physical boundaries for the deprived population such as “rampas antimendigos” (anti-beggar ramps) for the homeless. Additionally, there can be observed further measures that are directly meant for the urban poor in the city centre. Recently, these actions aim to displace this part of the population out of the inner city. Often carried out by the local and the state police, this course of action for example includes violent displacements and forced confinements of drug addicts and creates invisible barriers. The paper shows the criminalization of the urban poor as a result of a recently conducted fieldwork in São Paulo, using various qualitative methods such as interviews, participant observation and photo elicitation. Furthermore it shows the attempts how the affected people confront these measures and adapt their livelihood strategies. The paper links these empirical results to the theoretical discussion of the criminalization of poverty in the context of neoliberal cities.

Keywords: urban poor, inner-city regeneration, São Paulo, criminalization of poverty, neoliberal city

Author: Töpfer, Tobias (University of Innsbruck, Institute of Geography, Austria / Österreich)

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