Convergent Protests, Divergent Politics & Urban Polyvalence: Heterogeneous Middle Classes in Brazilian & Turkish Cities

Authors: Ryan Centner*, London School of Economics
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Development
Keywords: Brazil, Turkey, middle class, urban politics, protest
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Iberville, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In May 2013, an eruption of expanding protests in Brazilian and Turkish cities prompted a sense of common cause across the Atlantic, between two middle-income countries rarely linked together. In each, there was a feeling of everyday people rising up against governments viewed as corrupt, steeled against their populaces, and pushing unjust agendas. It was always apparent that these manifestations arose from different grievances (originally, costs of public transport in Brazil, and demolition of a grove of trees in Turkey), but in the long wake of uprisings that reconfigured politics in both countries over the last 4 years, it has become abundantly clear just how divergent are the politics underpinning convergent protests. This paper focuses particularly on the urban middle classes that have been at the core of this turmoil, highlighting their claims, their justifications, and their compositional heterogeneity. Moreover, emphasis is placed on how these middle classes engage politically with city space as a polyvalent platform that can move in a variety of directions (with rightward/leftward as important yet insufficient descriptors), but most significant are a range of terms that warrant further attention as triggers for action: development and righteousness. The paper explores how these two features explain the divergent politics of urban middle classes in Brazil and Turkey, examining why these matter so much in middle-income countries specifically.

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