Symposium at Harvard this Fall Will Seek New Policies and Tools to Benefit Global Slums


CAMBRIDGE, MA –  There are very few signs that slums will transition out of the urban landscape in the foreseeable future. Even after more than one and a half centuries of policy interventions, starting from efforts to address the effects of industrialization in Europe, slums persist in almost every geography on the planet. Slums are not only visible in the Global South, but are reappearing in old and new manifestations in the Global North. Their persistence can be linked to a number of political and economic failures to effectively address poverty and inequality, distorted land markets, and systemic social exclusion. These failures are, in turn, rooted in the very way policymakers, global media, and intellectuals conceptualize and represent how, why, and by whom slums are produced, maintained, and reproduced. Slums continue to be imagined as urban aberrations, something that falls outside of (or delinked from) urban ecologies.

Slums: New Visions for an Enduring Global Phenomenon is a symposium being held at Harvard University from September 20-22, 2018 that will challenge participants to discuss the range of perceptions and systemic changes needed to re-imagine integrative urban and social landscapes, as well as the labor and land markets that most often underpin the formation of slums. Organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Department of Urban Planning and DesignHarvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the symposium seeks to advance new policy, financial, design, and educational tools that can both improve existing slums and generate alternatives to future ones.

A diverse group of academic, policy, design and media experts, as well as community representatives will bridge historically siloed narratives about slums and discuss innovative ways to address them.

Confirmed speakers include: 

  • Line Algoed, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research
  • Somsook Boonyabancha, Asian Coalition for Housing Rights
  • Martha Chen, Harvard Kennedy School and WIEGO
  • Michael Cohen, The New School
  • Alejandro de Castro Mazarro, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (2019)
  • Brodwyn Fischer, University of Chicago
  • George Galster, Wayne State University
  • Sumila Gulyani, The World Bank
  • Alejandro Haiek Coll, LAB.PRO.FAB
  • Chris Herbert, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies
  • João Marcos de Almeida Lopes and Luiza Sassi, Usina Centro de Trabalho para o Ambiente Habitado
  • Jorge Francisco Liernur, University Torcuato di Tella
  • Ranjani Mazumdar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • George McCarthy, Enrique Silva, and Martim O. Smolka, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
  • Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard Graduate School of Design and RMA Architects
  • Sheela Patel, Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres
  • Janice Perlman, The Mega-Cities Project
  • Edgar Pieterse, African Centre for Cities
  • Michael Uwemedimo, Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform and University of Roehampton
  • Charlotte Vorms, University of Paris
  • Peter Ward and Jacob Wegmann, University of Texas at Austin
  • Theresa Williamson, Catalytic Communities
  • Nicholas You, Global Business Alliance
  • M. Lorena Zárate, Habitat International Coalition

The symposium, which is free and open to the public (registration required), will be held at the Harvard Center for Government and International Studies (1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA). It starts on the evening of Thursday, September 20, with a keynote about the representation of slums in film and media, and continues on Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, with full days of presentations and discussions.

Media Contacts:
Kerry Donahue, (617) 495-7640, [email protected]
Will Jason, (617) 503-2254, [email protected]

Join the conversation on Twitter with #SlumsNewVisions

Co-Sponsors:  Lincoln Institute of Land Policy , Harvard Graduate School of Design Urban Planning Department, Loeb Fellowship