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'Post-Third-World City' or Neoliberal 'City of Exception'? Rio de Janeiro in the Olympic Era

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Matthew Aaron Richmond, Jeff Garmany

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Early online date30 Jul 2016
Accepted/In press2016
E-pub ahead of print30 Jul 2016


King's Authors


This article considers processes of urban development within the context of mega-event preparations in Rio de Janeiro. We begin with a brief overview of these development processes, highlighting their connections to political and economic change in recent years. Proponents of these mega-event-led initiatives argue that Rio is undergoing a period of inclusive growth and integration: a perspective we call here a 'post-Third-World city' narrative of urban renewal. Critics, however, contend that urban officials are harnessing mega-events (e.g. the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games) to push forward a neoliberal agenda of socially unjust policies benefiting the interests of capital and marginalizing the city's poor and especially its favelas (i.e. the 'city-of-exception' thesis). In this article we explore the insights of these two perspectives and consider why they have grown popular in recent years. Though we side generally with the city-of-exception thesis, we argue that important geographic and historical particularities must also be accounted for. Without carefully situating analytical perspectives empirically-in particular, cases in which theoretical models are drawn from European and North American contexts-urban researchers risk concealing more than they reveal in analyses of rapidly developing countries like Brazil.

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