Opaque informality and differentiated legitimacy: The Case of Fortaleza-Brazil

Authors: Mariana Costa Lima*, Centro Universitário Christus, Clarissa Figueiredo Sampaio Freitas, Universidade Federal do Ceará, Daniel Ribeiro Cardoso, Universidade Federal do Ceará
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Latin America, Urban Geography
Keywords: GIS, Informal settlements, Information, Legitimacy, Opaque spaces
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We live in a historical moment where we are overloaded with digital and spatial information. Nevertheless, under the context of globalization, the process of "informationalization" of space is not uniform but brings with it a new type of exclusion, as argued by Brazilian geographer Milton Santos (2008). In this regard, we discuss a selective and symbolic disinformation that particularly affects the urban poor. We claim that the low-income informal settlements are opaque spaces (in opposition to transparent spaces), since there is practically no transmission of information about them. Using the case of Fortaleza-Brazil, we argue that the differentiated level of public knowledge about the spatial features of the city is much more related to the social legitimacy of the residents than to their legality. This is discussed through qualitative analysis of official plans and spatial analysis of georeferenced data. In Fortaleza, as in many other Brazilian metropolises, while low-income informal settlements are often deemed illegal and are invisible to the mainstream public policies, high-end neighbourhoods are the focus of public investment despite their significant level of non-compliance with urban codes. The findings of this study provide evidence to the claim that invisibility is a structural component in understanding the limits of urban planning policies in major cities of the Global South, as suggested by Roy (2005).

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