Troubling Continuities

Use and utility of the term ‘slum’

Authored by: Marie Huchzermeyer

The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  March  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415818650
eBook ISBN: 9780203387832
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678202


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Inadequate, unhealthy and deteriorating housing conditions have long been a concern in urban political, economic and social debates and in policies. Nowhere have these concerns been so tightly packaged in an opposition to city ideals as in the Anglophone world. The negative label ‘slum’ has come to stand for the antithesis of the urban norms and aspirations of philanthropists, politicians, planners and policy makers alike. The term ‘slum’, which applies to a condition rather than a single housing type, does not have an equivalent in other languages. It applies to deteriorating private rental housing, run down public housing or makeshift dwellings in unplanned settlements, all in antithesis to the modern city. In this sense, the term has not only found continued use, but has become dominant in the global development discourse. It is therefore relevant for this chapter to interrogate the roots and functions of this term in urban policy and planning, its use in the British colonial empire and subsequently in independent Anglophone third world states, the highly politicized debates surrounding this term, and its current role in the global urban development discourse.

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