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História da FAPESP IX

The world in a trance

Metropolises have transformed themselves, along with paradigms of research on urban problems

Leo RamosThe contrast between the Real Parque shantytown and the buildings on the Nova Faria Lima area, on the southside of São Paulo cityLeo Ramos

Brazil’s urban problems have become more complex in the last few decades and FAPESP, during the course of its 50 years, has financed the work of researchers who have revealed this transformation. If in the 1970s the studies diagnosed the outskirts of metropolises as territories that were heavily affected by waves of migration and were uniformly divorced from the presence of the State, current research indicates that they have become heterogeneous and have the benefits of public health and education services, although of uneven quality; however, the life of the inhabitants is jeopardized due to transport deficiencies and violence, to mention only two examples. Another change is the possibility of bringing together data on cities and using this, with the aid of IT resources, to generate new knowledge and applications for society. “The mass of data available today is gigantic and allows one to conduct far-reaching studies. Not very long ago, researchers had to restrict their research targets because of the difficulties of collating data,” explains Marta Arretche, a professor from the Department of Political Science of the School of Philosophy, Literature and Humanities (FFLCH) at the University of São Paulo (USP) and director of CEM (the Center of Metropolis Studies), one of the 11 Cepids (Centers of Research, Innovation and Dissemination) supported by FAPESP from 2000 to 2011.

One of the CEM vocations is to produce and disseminate geo-referenced data on the main Brazilian metropolises. “When we began, geo-processing wasn’t very developed in Brazil and the cartographic bases, rare,” says Eduardo Marques, a professor at the same USP department and director of the center from 2004 to 2009. “Public bodies produced data that were not available in the end. We bought databases, digitized and integrated others, used them in our research and put them on our site, free of charge.” The center also conducts commissioned studies and projects. When some government sphere needs a specific piece of work, CEM does the geo-processing with the available data, which are analyzed and cross referenced by the center’s researchers.

CEM is housed at Cebrap, the Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning, the institution that was responsible in the 1970s for fundamental urban sociology studies. One of theses was “São Paulo 1975:growth and poverty.” This was sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Archdiocese of São Paulo. The book’s underlying thesis is that economic growth is not incompatible with the increase in social inequalities, but can amplify them. This turned the work into a benchmark reference of the dictatorship era. The sort of research conducted by CEM at present differs from what was done back then, comments Eduardo Marques. “In the 1970s, the metropolis was the locus for discussion on major themes on the research agenda, such as democracy, capitalism and dependency, but it wasn’t a target in and of itself. Today, it is the central focus of the research,” he states.

In the past, urban sociology studies tended to be essay-like, rather than empirical. The book Pesquisa e desenvolvimento [Research and development], from 1973, which describes FAPESP’s activities in its first decade, records the first financing provided by the Foundation for studies in this field. From 1962 to 1963, professors Azis Simão and Douglas Monteiro, from FFLCH/USP, got support for the study “Sociabilidade espontânea e organizada em um bairro da capital” [Spontaneous and organized sociability in a district of the capital]. The research was conducted in Vila Diva, on the east side of the city of São Paulo, where a questionnaire was applied to 178 homes. However, this was never published. “It was important because virtually no field research was done back them,” recalls Eva Alterman Blay, a retired professor from the FFLCH Department of Sociology, who worked as a volunteer and helped to apply the questionnaires. “The place was a long way away and hard to get to.”

Living at risk
Naturally, the critical mass formed in the 1960s was important for the establishment of the bases of the current studies. Lúcio Kowarick, a professor from the Department of Political Science of FFLCH and one of the authors of the study “São Paulo 1975: crescimento e pobreza” [São Paulo 1975: growth and poverty] recalls the first funding that he got from FAPESP, in 1966. He had left Brazil in 1964, fearful of political persecution from the dictatorship, and had moved to France, where he began his master’s degree with a French government scholarship. After two years, the grant became insufficient, so he sought out William Saad Hossne, then the scientific director of FAPESP. “I explained the situation and he asked me to write a letter explaining that I was in France for political reasons. He gave me a grant for the two remaining years and I was able to complete my master’s degree,” Kowarick recalls. He says that FAPESP was also important for him by enabling him to attend seminars abroad. In the early 2000s, Kowarick received a research grant that yielded the study “Viver em risco: moradia, desemprego e violência urbana na Grande São Paulo” [Living at risk: housing, unemployment and urban violence in the Greater São Paulo]. Based on the narratives of inhabitants of shantytowns, slums and clandestine housing developments, the study showed, among other evidence, that violence has become a strong contingency in the life of the inhabitants of the outskirts of the metropolis. The fear of violence limits the times at which people go out and imposes a code of silence. The research involved students who had received young investigator awards and master’s degree grants and resulted in a book that won the Jabuti Prize in 2009 in the Humanities category.

Leo RamosOne of the FAPESP initiatives in the late 1990s was the Program of Research into Public Policies. This helped to push forward collaboration between the researchers of urban problems and the administrators of cities. Raquel Rolnik, a professor from the School of Architecture and Urbanism of USP, had two projects approved by this program and highlights their effects. “One of them involved the preparation of materials to train the city administrators to understand the Statute of Cities, which was passed in 2001,” he states. “The materials became known at the Statute Kit, with a game, a primer, a video and other materials being distributed to the city administrators,” he states. The content was based on research into the social, territorial and municipal realities of cities in São Paulo state. The group that Raquel coordinated also obtained FAPESP financing for a series of studies, which began in the 1990s and are now being updated. The mapped the evolution of São Paulo state municipalities from the point of view of their conditions of urbanization. An analysis of the 2010 Census, as compared to the 1980, 1991 and 2000 censuses, shows a complex situation. “The worst urbanization conditions don’t necessarily affect the poorer towns. Precariousness affects metropolitan fringes more, the outskirts of the places where the greatest wealth and the strongest struggle for urban land occurs, in an occupation process devoid of regulations that has continued to operate in the last few decades,” he states, mentioning the cities on the northern São Paulo State coast and of the Baixada Santista area and, in the case of the São Paulo Metropolitan Area, of its more recently occupied municipalities, such as Ferraz de Vasconcelos and Francisco Morato. “What we want to understand today is how the wealth produced by the city does or does not transform itself into better conditions of urbanization,” says Raquel.

FAPESP’s most robust and articulated investment, however, was the Center of Metropolis Studies ), supported by the foundation for 11 years. “During the course of its history, CEM matured, strengthened its ties with institutional partners and with society, and fine-tuned the focus of its research, becoming an internationally relevant institution,” says Hernan Chaimovich, the coordinator of the program of Cepids, to which CEM used to be connected. Marta Arretche, the center’s director, explains that the institution gave up its ambition to provide one great solution for the problems of the metropolis, because this task proved to be impossible. Instead, CEM started to select specific themes to which it might make a contribution. Among the organization’s most important studies, the Map of Social Vulnerability stands out. This resorted to Census data and geo-processing techniques to map poverty in the city of São Paulo. The main source of the cartographic map, released in 2004, was the Census of the year 2000. It produced a mosaic of the status of each one of the 13 thousand sectors of the city as established by IBGE, and managed to capture specific  situations of vulnerability in groups of 300 to 400 families in each census sector. “The map was important to show that income is a limited variable for determining poverty,” says Marta Arretche. “It became clear that access to public services and equipment, among several factors, may put two families with the same income in very different situations of vulnerability,” she states. Another relevant study was coordinated by political scientist Argelina Figueiredo, CEM’s first director. Surveys were conducted in São Paulo, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro with samples of 40% of the poorest population. “They showed that the poor generally do have access to healthcare and education, regardless of their income. Access to services is devoid of any criteria of favoritism,” says Marta Arretche.

Personal networks
Studies led by Eduardo Marques and Nadya Araújo Guimarães showed the role of social networks in terms of access to work and income. The networks define themselves as a set of people who know each other, such as friends, family, work colleagues or school mates, that an individual can turn to when looking for a job, going through difficult financial times or trying to close a business deal. The variety of types of networks, even among the poorest population, shows different situations. Vulnerability is greater when a person can only resort to a limited group of contacts, who are generally their family and neighbors, whose situation is very similar to that of the individual. One of the most important pieces of information in this line of research stemmed from comparing types of networks in the poor and the middle class. On average, the networks of the poor are smaller, less varied, more local and more centered in their neighborhood. The poorer the individual, the more his networks are in line with these features. However, the networks also vary within each group. This is the case of the networks of poor and of middle class adolescents, both of which comprise family members, family friends and, above all, schoolmates. The process of differentiation between them helps to exemplify the effect of the networks upon the individual`s path and upon the reproduction of social inequalities.

“In both the groups, they are large, varied and comprised of people with similarities,” says Eduardo Marques. However, when the individual becomes an adult, an abyss grows between the poor and the middle class. “The explanation lies in access to universities. Those who enter university have four, five or six years in which to build a network of people in the same profession. If the person is a physician, it will be network of physicians, which this person can turn to in the case of unemployment or if the person needs a business partner.” Those who have no access to university end up maintaining the same network they had and find it difficult to keep it up. “Imagine a cook in a bakery. His network consists of one or two work colleagues. If he becomes unemployed, he will take any job that turns up. If it is in another area, he will lose the original network and build another. The poor are forever throwing out parts of their network,” he says.

A recent study led by Marta Arretche shows a rarely explored feature of the widespread availability of education and healthcare services, the main providers of which are the municipal administrations. “This phenomenon is heavily influenced by the action of the federal administration. Constitutional rules oblige states and municipalities to spend 25% of their resources on education and 15% on healthcare, as well as maintaining municipal education and health councils. Furthermore, federal regulation affects the type of policy implemented by local and state administrations. If they do not maintain family health programs and community agent programs, they will not get federal funds. The margin for maneuvering of mayors is limited – they can decide, at most, whether they will invest more heavily in the downtown areas or in the outlying districts,” she states.