Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World
In the middle of the night they quickly build houses and seize land before the police destroy their fragile homes. They're squatters--families that risk the wrath of governments and property owners by building dwellings on land they don't own--and they represent one out of every ten people on the planet. Investigative journalist Robert Neuwirth lived among squatter communities from Rio to Bombay to Nairobi to Istanbul to give us an impassioned, inside view of squatter life and a glimpse into the urban future. He met people in Nairobi who built homes with their bare hands, Turkish families who plot land invasions, and children in Rio whose parents justify outfoxing the authorities as the only path to a better life. And he shows us that in cities like Rio, squatter settlements have become decent places to live for formerly landless people. Tracing the notion of private property from the enclosure movement in Europe to the settlement of the U.S., Neuwirth shows how squatting rights may actually be seen as more "natural" than the current laws practiced in the U.S. In almost every country of the developing world, the most active builders are squatters, creating complex local economies with high rises, shopping strips, banks, and self-government. As they invent new social structures, Neuwirth argues, squatters are at the forefront of the worldwide movement to develop new visions of what constitutes property and community.