Title: The risks of risk: dispossessions and the right to the city

Professor Raquel Rolnik

Full Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo
UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (2008-2011, 2011-2014).


The financialization of land and housing marks a new empire colonizing the urban landscape in which territories are increasingly captured and populations are dislocated and dispossessed. Under this model of urban development, the link between capital and built space has reached unprecedented scale and speed by mobilizing new legal, political and economic instruments. Historically planning language and administrative norms were mobilize to set the borders of the “outcast”.

In the name of hygiene or war on drugs, popular territories were stigmatized and as so marked to disappear. “Risk” has converted into the newest justification establish the perimeters of territories under threat of eviction, performing the role of preferred territories to be used as new frontiers of capital expansion.

As red dots in the map, these places can be deeply marked by violence and destruction in the name of legality. But in addressing this scenario, it is important to recognize that the city is under dispute and, beyond the capture of territories by finance, there is also a permanent movement of emplacements, generating landscapes for life.

We argue that, in this ‘urban warfare’, space is not the scenery where battles take place, but rather the object of these battles itself. In this context, the strategies to face climate change impacts on the city should not be faced without a deep reading of the political economy of space.

Brief Biographical Note

Raquel Rolnik is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo. She is an architect and urban planner, with over 35 years of scholarship, activism and practical experience in planning, urban land policy and housing issues. In her career, she has held various government positions including Director of the Planning Department of the city of São Paulo (1989-1992) and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities (2003-2007) as well as NGO activities, such as Urban Policy Coordinator of the Polis Institute (1997-2002). In May 2008, Ms. Raquel Rolnik was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for a six years mandate, ending June 2014.She is author of several books, including “Urban warfare: housing and cities in the age of finance” by  VERSO UK  and “São Paulo: Planejamento da desigualdade” among others.