Review: Robert Neuwirth (2005). Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World


  • Brian Christens Vanderbilt University



urban, squatters, landless, poor, development, global, qualitative research


Urban development history has been replete with competing claims to legitimacy in land ownership and use. An estimated one billion people currently live in urban communities without legal claim to the land. These squatters and the built environment that they inhabit have been the subject of much concern, yet there has been a relative shortage of study dedicated to the issue. In particular, the view from within squatter communities themselves has often been excluded or delegitimized. In a recently published book, Robert NEUWIRTH (2005) presents a study of four squatter communities in large cities (Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Mumbai, and Istanbul) on four continents. Importantly, rather than discussing the communities from afar, NEUWIRTH conducted the study by living in each squatter community for several months. This review discusses the book in terms of its utility for development theorists and practitioners. While the methods and organization of the book leave much to be desired for this audience, there is enough valuable, original research to make it essential reading. Although the book raises many more questions than it answers, these questions may now be addressed in more sophisticated ways in future research. Perhaps most importantly, the book demonstrates the need for creative solutions that involve the squatters themselves in the decision-making process. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs050289


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Author Biography

Brian Christens, Vanderbilt University

Brian CHRISTENS is a community researcher and doctoral student (Ph.D. program in Community Research & Action) at Vanderbilt University in the United States. He has studied and written on urban development, action research, community psychology, citizen participation and community organizing.




How to Cite

Christens, B. (2005). Review: Robert Neuwirth (2005). Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2).