Janice Perlman wrote the first in-depth account of life in the favelas, a book hailed as one of the most important works in global urban studies in the last 30 years. Now, in Favela, Perlman carries that story forward to the present. Re-interviewing many longtime favela residents whom she had first met in 1969--as well as their children and grandchildren--Perlman offers the only long-term perspective available on the favelados as they struggle for a better life.
Perlman discovers that while educational levels have risen, democracy has replaced dictatorship, and material conditions have improved, many residents feel more marginalized than ever. The greatest change is the explosion of drug and arms trade and the high incidence of fatal violence that has resulted. Yet the greatest challenge of all is job creation--decent work for decent pay. If unemployment and under-paid employment are not addressed, she argues, all other efforts will fail to resolve the fundamental issues. Foreign Affairs praises Perlman for writing "with compassion, artistry, and intelligence, using stirring personal stories to illustrate larger points substantiated with statistical analysis."
Perlman has produced an excellent, exhaustive study of life in the 1,020 favelas squatter settlements in Rio de Janeiro in this sequel to her 1976 book, The Myth of Marginality. Here she attempts to find and reinterview her subjects as well as their children and grandchildren. Her authoritative account based on interviews with almost 2,500 people (some of whom she has known for 40 years) blends detailed personal testimonies with ethnography and insightful analyses of the urbanization of poverty, the implications of public policy and the drug trade. Her measured approach is all the more compelling because as she investigates the deprivation and danger faced by favela dwellers 19% of the city's population she also conveys a deep understanding that favelas are not merely despair-filled slums but communities, and many residents have remained there by choice. She is also insightful about the limitations of her own research and the conclusions that can be drawn from it, making her arguments all the more meaningful. Photos.