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Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro Paperback – 1 Sep 2011

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199836833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199836833
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 780,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


This book deserves its broad public reception. No work on informal settlements can compare with the longitudinal breadth of Favela, and in this respect the work is an invaluable achievement. (Alessandro Angelini, CUNY Graduate Center, Social Forces Journal)

A valuable and vivid study of life as it has been lived by the poor in one of Latin America's biggest cities. (Michael Reid, Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Janice Perlman is President and Founder of the Mega-Cities Project. She is also the author of The Myth of Marginality: Urban Poverty and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, which won the C. Wright Mills Award. She lives in Nyack, New York.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Focusing on issues such as urban poverty, migration to the cities, the effect of drugs in the communities of Rio de Janeiro, and issues of corruption, Janice Perlman's in-depth `Favela' should be a fascinating study for both scholars of the subject and those with a more general interest in urban marginalisation, or Rio de Janeiro. Sadly, it isn't. Perlman's work isn't without its good points, though. Some of her statistics, such as that of 3% of murders in Rio being reported, or her surveys on the issues which most trouble the favela residents, outline some of the broader issues well, and provide useful figures and statistics for those studying the issues (Perlman's book is clearly meant for serious research on the subjects as well as general reading). However, despite some interesting statistics, and the fairly interesting potted histories Perlman provides on areas like the now demolished Catacumba favela, and the sprawling complex of Nova Brazilia, this is a work with serious limitations.

Firstly, though a certain level of righteous anger at the existence of the poverty of the Favelas citizens and sympathy towards their plight is understandable, `Favela' is all too often a one-sided polemic. Perlman criticises anyone outside of the favelas; perhaps most notably the Police whom she brands as both afraid of action, and willing to kill indiscriminately; as well as alleging them to be both failing to stop favela traffickers, and then complaining of the social unfairness when these traffickers are duly arrested by the police.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favela Eye-Opening Read 9 July 2010
By D. M. Murphy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to be invited to the book launch party for this book. Dr. Perlman gave a very engaging talk about the findings of her study which eventually became Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro, which made me want to read her book. I was not disappointed. As a college student I have read many sociological and anthropological studies which have become books. Although they were informative, they were all lacking any personal connection with the people in the areas being discussed and any follow-up research. Perlman's personal connection to Rio de Janeiro and the people who she has studied over the past forty years transforms her study into a gripping account of the past and new struggles of those living in favelas. After reading Favela, my perception and understanding of squatter settlements was completely transformed. People living in favelas are truly victims of the drug trade which has erupted around them. Drug trade has turned vibrant communities into isolated, fearful collections of streets. Residents have managed to overcome illiteracy and lack of access to education, but favelados will need the help of Brazil's police to win back their communities from drug gangs.

Perlman also forced me to consider an uncomfortable reality. Favela residents are not the primary consumers of drugs, residents of the barrios (legal neighborhoods) are supporting the trade. They also glamorize favelas, and attend parties in them. Younger generations in the United States are guilty of doing similar things in their glorifications of rap stars and the gangster lifestyle. The highly publicized drug wars in Mexico have shed light on the United States' role in them, in which the United States has been found to be supplying arms to drug cartels. Reading favela has made me wonder: "How we have influenced drug violence and trade in Rio?"

Favela is a must-read for everyone. Its factual analysis combined with personal stories makes it an enjoyable and informative read. I now understand urban issues facing megacities around the world, and am ready to help. I will now be watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics with an extra sensitivity to their effects on all the people living in Rio.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling stories of people, call to action 18 Jun. 2010
By L. Gott - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. I have read about half of it, but couldn't wait to post a review and my highest recommendation. Dr. Perlman, professor and founder/president of the Mega-Cities Project, shares the stories of people she has followed over four decades in the favela and conjunto communities of Rio de Janeiro (such as Nova Brasilia and Catacumba). For example, she tells the story of Ze Cabo, once the president of the Residents' Association in Nova Brasilia, and his extended family. Such multigenerational stories of people's lives also become the story of her life, doing the work of understanding, appreciating, and participating in the lives of Rio's urban poor, and communicating accurately and insightfully about them. The word "favela" was only slightly known to me before, but I am so glad I picked up this book in the library (and ordered my own copy). The evolving nature of these communities is explored with factual clarity (and documentation), with compassion and empathy, but never with sentimentalism. Yet Dr. Perlman's deep involvement with her life's work and those who have made it possible by opening their homes to her shines through every page, with passion and intense commitment. The section in her Introduction titled "Why I Love Favelas" may open your eyes and change your minds, if you have a preconceived notion of the towns blanketing the hills of Rio, away from Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. If you have a desire to better understand where the world is headed in the next century as our largest cities become "mega-cities," you could not find a better introduction to the heart of the matter.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favelas with no Hype 2 Aug. 2010
By BMc2323 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a masterful study based on decades of research. The author and a team of research assistants followed up with the same extended families interviewed for Perlman's first book thirty years ago. In the intervening years Rio and its favelas changed radically--while the favelas are far better off in most material ways, their residents face much greater threats of everyday violence, in ways that have been routinized into the life of the city. The favelas have been unofficially zoned for violence. Their residents continue to aspire to live "normal" urban lives pursuing education, opportunity and community connections, but avoiding and surviving violence have become the new normal.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A social science classic 8 Dec. 2010
By PBerryman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read and used Janice Perlman's Favela in teaching a class on Latin America at Temple University this past semester. Here are some reasons why I like the book and believe it may become a social science classic:
* the deft combination of personal stories and data
* the longitudinal and intergenerational aspect
* the clear writing, typically stating the issues at the start of a chapter and then showing how the findings were reached and what they mean
* the ability to handle complexity: people's lives improved over the decades but the stigma of being a favelado remains
* the importance given to variations in individuals and households
* the strong moral core that seems to have guided her research and writing over the decades, which is grounded in real people
* discerning what the people want as opposed to the experts and NGOs, e.g., the simple finding that what people most want is decent reliable dignified work and the harm done when that is not available
* linkage of issues in the communities studied to the rest of the city of Rio, Brazil, and the world.
Her findings square with my own experience decades ago in a barrio of Panama City. Contrary to stereotypes the people worked in the government or the private sector or as self-employed. Like the favelados they were part of the fabric of the city but were stigmatized by where they lived.

The effort by the state of Rio to wrest control of favelas from the drug gangs, as exemplified in the November 2010 assault on two favelas makes the book all the more relevant.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent update of and look back at "The Myth of Marginality" 13 Aug. 2010
By Hasan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
All the possible subjects that one can be interested come together in cities - from architecture and infrastructure to history and economics and politics, from race and class and gender to fashion, art and sports. Janice Perlman's books on Rio de Janeiro were for me an excellent window not only into their specific subject, but also the vitality of cities in general. She provides a deep knowledge of her chosen issue and a broad look at the organism of the city itself. Most importantly for me, the books were an education in how to approach a problem: with sensitivity and attention, without preconceptions, with a willingness to learn and change and adapt. Together, "The Myth of Marginality" and "Favela" are a detailed look at the particular issues facing Rio de Janeiro and also at the issues facing those who are involved with and care about cities.
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