A look at nine places defining life on the margins for the new century, from Chongqing to California.
These places are known around the world by many names: as the slums, favelas, bustees, bidonvilles, ashwaiyyat, shantytowns, kampongs, urban villages, gecekondular, and barrios of the developing world, but also as the immigrant neighborhoods, ethnic districts, banlieues difficiles, Plattenbau developments, Chinatowns, Little Indias, Hispanic quarters, urban slums, and migrant suburbs of wealthy countries, which are themselves each year absorbing 2 million people, mainly villagers, from the developing world.
When we look at arrival cities, we tend to see them as fixed entities: an accumulation of inexpensive dwellings containing poor people, usually in less than salubrious conditions. In the language of urban planners and governments, these enclaves are too often defined as malign appendages, cancerous growths on an otherwise healthy city. Their residents are seen, in the words of former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, "as an ecologically defined group rather than as part of the social system."
This leads to tragic urban-housing policies in the West, of the sort that made Paris erupt into riots in 2005, led to clashes in London in the 1980s, and propelled Amsterdam into murderous violence in the first decade of this century. It leads to even worse policies in the cities of Asia, Africa, and South America, to slum-clearance projects in which the futures of tens or hundreds of thousands of people are recklessly erased.