Interrogating the “right to the (electric) city” in Rio de Janeiro favelas through socio-technical systems

Room F
Monday, 31 August 2015
13.00 – 14.45
right to the city, Rio de Janeiro

Universal access to urban services is recognized as a fundamental dimension of the implementation of the “right to the city”, and most importantly as the right to live in the city in dignified conditions. This question is particularly relevant in the cities of the South, where the inequalities in access to urban services, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, are part of a larger process of urban fragmentation. Based on a study of electricity regularization projects in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, this paper approaches the “right to the city” as a concept which allows us to reflect on the “co-production of spatialized and territorialized norms of the just and unjust between public authorities and citizens” (Morange et Spire 2014, p. 4). Through an empirical analysis of the socio-technical tools (Akrich 1987), particularly the electricity meters, we will show two things: On one hand, we show how the regularization of electricity service is a process which aims to “normalize” (Foucault 1975) the behavior of these citizens as customer of a commercialized public service. On the other hand, we will explore the nature of the identified conflicts between the favelas’ inhabitants and the electricity distribution company.  

This analysis is based on fieldwork conducted in Rio de Janeiro in 2010-2011, consisting of semi-structured interviews with 25 households in Santa Marta favela and with staff of the electricity distribution company. It is part of the author's PhD thesis in Urban Planning defended in February 2015 at the Université Paris-Est.


Akrich, M. 1987. « Comment décrire les objets techniques? », Techniques & Culture, , no 9: 49‑64.
Foucault, M. 1975. Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison. Paris: Gallimard.
Morange, M., et A. Spire. 2014. « Le droit à la ville est-il soluble au Sud ? ». Métropolitiques, 5.
Pilo', F., 2015. La régularisation des favelas par l'électricité. Un service entre Etat, marché et citoyenneté, Université Paris-Est, 505

Francesca Pilo
francescapilo.p [at]

Organizing Partners

Main Sponsors