Shackdweller Citizenship


Margaret Scott, Macalester College


Literature on slum and shack settlements focuses mainly on the staggering numbers of shackdwellers, the steadily increasing urban population, and the perils of rapid urbanization yet largely ignores the rights of the poor people housed in these disputed and often highly politicized areas. Even in literature sympathetic to the need for improved conditions, little agency is granted to those who have the greatest stake in how slums are managed, the shackdwellers themselves. The paper looks carefully at shackdwellers’ rights, considering the activism of a South African movement, the Abahlali baseMjondolo. Details on the Abahlali are revealed through a variety of sources, whether newspaper, magazine or journal articles, book chapters, or court documents. All aspects of the Abahlali movement, origins, structure, and activism, reveal a pragmatic and alternative model for citizenship that differs from the citizenship offered by the South African government. The paper utilizes the political economy of place perspective as a lens to understand how the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement’s grassroots advocacy counters the market-oriented development put forth by the government. The Abahlali baseMjondolo’s inclusive governance and powerful advocacy for a right to the city offer a compelling model of citizenship in a steadily urbanizing world.
Recommended Citation

Scott, Margaret (2010) “SHACKDWELLER CITIZENSHIP,” Cities in the 21st Century: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 7.
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