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date: 17 June 2024

A Postcolonial Approach to the Right to the Citylocked

A Postcolonial Approach to the Right to the Citylocked

  • Lucas Amaral de OliveiraLucas Amaral de OliveiraFederal University of Bahia
  •  and Bruna TrianaBruna TrianaFederal University of Goiás


A postcolonial approach to the right to the city involves the intersection of two multifaceted topics that has yielded an extensive body of scholarship. On the one hand, a postcolonial perspective conceives knowledge production as connected to the colonial matrix of power—a process that resulted in a narrow, Western-centered understanding of the world. On the other, the right to the city, a political motto associated with the French Marxist Henri Lefebvre, focuses on rebalancing the power over urbanization processes by embracing citizens’ prerogatives to co-participate in decision-making concerning the city.

Tackling the debate on the right to the city from the standpoint of postcolonial spaces includes exploring a range of social, political, economic, cultural, and spatial axes that offer renewed engagements with the “urban question” from across the social sciences and humanities. In this sense, it is essential to question the universal grammar of the “city,” considering urban changes and local variations, as well as the metrocentric tendencies in the dominant urban theory, such as the concentration on large cities based on a normative and Eurocentric conception of urbanity.

A postcolonial approach to the right to the city takes various processes, histories, experiences, projects, spatial perspectives, and agencies into account, considering epistemological and political proposals from the Global South. Critical Urban Theory, for instance, has analyzed varied contexts, times, and places to determine current patterns of urbanization under global capitalism and their far-reaching consequences for contemporary urban life, especially for groups at the margins. In the early 21st century, Postcolonial Urbanism, whether led by political and social movements or scholars, has drawn attention to how imperialism and colonialism have profoundly shaped city landscapes and positioned urbanism within a singular script centered on Western capitalism, modernization, and progress. Both perspectives outline a critical call to rethink and decenter the debate on the right to the city, confronting topics related to contemporary urban dynamics. These topics may include but are not limited to the new designs of citizenship and agency, center-periphery relations, city-making processes not restricted to the Western system of meaning, urban precarity, housing displacement, gentrification, environmental racism, and the costs of housing injustice in different geographical contexts.


  • Histories of Anthropology
  • International and Indigenous Anthropology
  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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