Houselessness, Infrastructural Exclusion, and Stigmatization

Giuseppina Forte

Published in Issue 4.1 // Updates

Keywords: Houselessness, infrastructural stigmatization, racialized and gendered geographies, Brazil, São Paulo


At the feet of the Serra da Cantareira forest in São Paulo, land grabbers illicitly seize and sell land to houseless people. In 2019, I conducted fieldwork in a newly established squatter camp along the Tremembé River, inhabited mainly by Black and Brown women who had migrated from rural Brazil. Since they are considered illegal occupants by the authorities and live in an area at risk of flooding, they may soon be evicted without compensation. The criminalization of these houseless people by the government overlaps with the stigma attached to them by the residents of nearby settlements. They associate the squatters with alleged disruptive practices against nature (deforestation, pollution, and garbage accumulation), theft of electricity, and appropriation of federal subsidies. Stemming from hygienist discourses, racialized and gendered ideologies shape this environmental imagination.

Giuseppina Forte is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Environmental Studies at Williams College, where she teaches courses in urban history and theory and design for environmental justice. As a scholar and design practitioner, she has worked closely with historically underrepresented populations in São Paulo, Mexico City, Ouagadougou, Paris, and San Francisco. During her doctoral studies at the University of California Berkeley, she researched and lived in Brazilian favelas in the northern periphery of São Paulo. Giuseppina sits on the executive board of the Italian Association for Women in Development (AIDOS), an NGO supporting gender rights worldwide.

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