Paradigm or paradox? The 'cumbersome impasse' of the participatory turn in Brazilian urban planning

Abigail Friendly Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, The Netherlands Kristine Stiphany College of Architecture, Texas Tech University, USA


The Brazilian urban reform movement expanded citizen participation in decision-making processes through a policy environment motivated by a right to the city (RTC), a collective development strategy for political transformation. Yet recent events evidence that social exclusion and spatial segregation remain dominant features of the Brazilian city. These contradictions have led planning scholars and practitioners to grapple with misalignment between the reform movement’s paradigmatic goals and its paradoxical failures. We build upon this genre of thinking to assess critical areas of paradigm and paradox in Brazilian planning – insurgent urbanisminformality and knowledge – each of which is rooted in the lesser-understood concept of autogestão for improving the equity of land division through urban planning.1 Although not all inclusive of the issues faced by Brazilian cities, these three categories were selected for best representing how Brazil’s participatory turn established a range of paradigmatic and paradoxical conditions that can help us to understand cities in Brazil and beyond and might better leverage autogestão in the future.