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Brazilian Chair: Brazilian Urbanization, a critical geography reading


Admission requirements

This course can be done for 5 or 10 ects. Please consult with the teacher


Brazil has been through a significant urban transformation in the last decades. Now, more than 80% of the Brazilian population lives in urban areas. Such urban divide has as keen features, modest economic growth, uneven spatial development, uneven income distribution, high population expansion and rural-urban migration. The outcome is a combination of highly developed areas alongside slums, ill-regulated land use, low sanitary conditions and increased poverty that are no longer exclusive of major metropolitan areas, despite general improvements and social policies taken during the last years.
Economic restructuring during the nineties, political changes and government policies have contributed to engender a new territorial configuration. Brazil has now many huge agglomerations with more than 2 million inhabitants, besides an increasing number of medium-sized cities distributed allover its territory. Although population growth rates have been declining, the urban population as well urban areas should continue to grow, increasing urban sprawl and peri-urban growth as the major centers lose population to other regions. This urban spatial dynamics is becoming a major challenge for planning, environmental management and social policies. Differently from developed countries suburbanization, in Brazil such growth happens in appalling conditions with harsh social and environmental problems without planning coordination and proper funding for municipalities.
In view of this scenario, the aim of this course is to give, from a critical geography perspective, a general overview and interpretation on the history and trends of urbanization in Brazil intertwined with the role of the State, considering the economic, social, political and demographic transformations that the country has undergone over the last century.
The first unit will explore the relations among urbanization, economic (under) development and State planning and interventions in different levels and scales till 1990.
The second unit will approach the spatial transformations and changes during the last twenty years comprising the demographic trends, the economic policies and institutional factors that have influenced such trends as well as their consequences. This unit will also expose a case study on Rio de Janeiro recent trends.
The third unit aims to provide an outline and theoretical interpretation on the recent changes in territorial organization and possibilities of change. It will stress the strategic role of the production of social space, in order to understand the contemporary character of the urban and urbanization in Brazil. It will also discuss the contemporary rural-urban contradiction as well issues related to social justice and the right to the city and the challenges the present situation poses to urban and regional planning

Course objectives




Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation in class [20%] and an essay [80%]


Blackboard will be used to post all the necessary information about the course (programme, time tables, announcements, etc.). Also notices will be posted on interesting activities (such as Conferences, workshops, expositions, etc.), which are related to the themes analyzed during the course.

Reading list



Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. M.L. Wiesebron. Tel.: 071-527 2063