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Beyond the “Slums”: Informal Housing and Urban Governance in Megacities of China, India, and Brazil

Date & Time

Jun. 13, 2016
1:00pm – 3:00pm


5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Beyond the “Slums”: Informal Housing and Urban Governance in Megacities of China, India, and Brazil

Urbanization is a defining phenomenon of the 21st century.  Whereas 54% of the world’s population lives in cities today, the number is expected to reach 70% by 2050, and most of this growth will take place in the Global South.  One of the most important and common characteristics of urban expansion in southern metropolises is the development of informal housing settlements that fall outside of government control or regulation.  According to UN-Habitat, one third of the world’s urban population lives in “slums.”  While there is consensus among researchers and policymakers that informality has become a phenomenal organizing urban logic in the developing world, it remains largely unknown how cities are governed under informal modes of urbanization.  

In this seminar, Wilson Center Fellow Yue Zhang will present her research on informal settlements and urban governance in megacities of China, India, and Brazil.  The cross-national comparative study in six megacities reveals that informality must be understood not as the object of state regulation but rather as produced and institutionalized by the state itself.  Urban governance structure, defined by the interrelations between various state and nonstate actors, is key for understanding the different outcomes of state intervention in the informal space.  Please join us for a discussion of housing and governance policies to promote inclusive and livable cities in an era of rapid global urbanization.


Yue Zhang, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois – Chicago, and Wilson Center Fellow

Adam Auerbach, Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University

Michael Donovan, Senior Housing and Urban Development Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank

Victor Vergara, Lead Urban Specialist, Global Urban-Social Unit, World Bank

Richard Stren, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto, and Senior Fellow, Global Cities Institute

Hosted By

Urban Sustainability Laboratory

Since 1991, the Urban Sustainability Laboratory has advanced solutions to urban challenges—such as poverty, exclusion, insecurity, and environmental degradation—by promoting evidence-based research to support sustainable, equitable and peaceful cities.  Read more

China Environment Forum

Since 1997, the China Environment Forum's mission has been to forge U.S.-China cooperation on energy, environment, and sustainable development challenges. We play a unique nonpartisan role in creating multi-stakeholder dialogues around these issues.  Read more

Brazil Institute

The Brazil Institute—the only country-specific policy institution focused on Brazil in Washington—works to foster understanding of Brazil’s complex reality and to support more consequential relations between Brazilian and U.S. institutions in all sectors.  Read more

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