Urban Sociology Meets the Livelihood Approach in the South

NCCR North-South Dialogue No. 20

by Luca Pattaroni, Vincent Kaufmann, Yves Pedrazzini, Jean-Claude Bolay, Adriana Rabinovich

Bern, NCCR North-South 2008

The process of urbanisation is a global phenomenon in constant progression around the world; however, it distinguishes itself today in developing countries through its particular speed, scope and consequences in terms of spatial fragmentation and social exclusion. In this paper, we develop a framework for analyzing these phenomena, starting from the description of the multidimensionality of people’s experience of everyday urban life and linking this with an analysis of the spatial setting of their lives.

We argue that the essential components of a worthwhile life (a source of livelihood, ontological security, social relations, political recognition) are closely linked with the possibility of occupying and shaping various urban territories. To deal with the mutual dynamics through which individual lives and the city are shaped, we broaden the sociological concept of “territory” and merge it with insights from the livelihood approach, developing an understanding of “situated human action”. The resulting distinction between four territories – the functional, merchant, sociability and dwelling territories – enables us to describe the dynamics of urban life and urban order in a slum, and suggest ways of improving our understanding of the orientation and scale of public policies in urban territories, especially in cities in the South. We conclude the paper with suggestions for a research agenda based on our methodological insights and the underlying concept of “inclusive cities”.

Pattaroni L, Kaufmann V, Pedrazzini Y, Bolay JC, Rabinovich A. 2008. People and “Territories”: Urban Sociology Meets the Livelihood Approach in the South. NCCR North-South Dialogue, 20. Bern, Switzerland: NCCR North-South.


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