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Katherine Boo

Longreads: Geography of Poverty, Reporting Poverty, Chinese City Limiting Cars, a FarmVille for Africa

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.
 

LongreadsThe Economist’s much tweeted-about "Geography of Poverty" highlights a "poverty paradox" – that more of the world’s extremely poor people now live in middle-income countries rather than in the poorest ones. The finding comes from a new paper by Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies. But the situation could change by 2025 if the number of poor people grows in fragile states, say Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution and Andrew Rogerson of the Overseas Development Institute in the Economist. Veteran journalist Katherine Boo, author of a new book on life in a Mumbai slum, discusses the challenge of portraying poor people as individuals in the media, in an interview with Guernica in "Reporting Poverty." Big Chinese cities are starting to adopt measures with the potential to ease pollution and "improve the long-term quality of Chinese growth," according to a story in the New York Times. "A Chinese City Moves to Limit New Cars" describes, among other things, restrictions in Guangzhou expected to cut the number of cars on city streets in half. And finally, imagine vicariously smashing mosquitoes, riding a motorbike through the streets of Lagos, or remembering life in a rural village. The BBC writes about a Nigerian video game-maker who believes Africans and non-Africans alike may want to tap into the African experience through games.

What Katherine Boo’s book tells us about the modern city: garbage has more mobility than citizens do

Sintana Vergara's picture


Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. Random House, 2012.

Mumbai Slum, Girl on SwingKatherine Boo’s book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” digs deep into life in a Mumbai undercity. The author escapes the dichotomies that roll off our tongues when we speak of places that are replete with disparity; instead she spends seven years interviewing and observing, and brings us a story of life, hope, and despair in Annawadi, a slum precariously perched between an international airport and a sewage pond. What emerges is a sensitive, careful, complex portrait of characters that use the means at their disposal – hard work, political connections, lies, or prayers – to climb over the high walls that separate their city from the rest of Mumbai.

Using trash as a thread to tell the story, Boo illustrates both the feudal nature of life in Annawadi and the absolute segregation – the boundaries, to use Richard Sennett’s term – between the slum residents and those who live on the other side of the great big wall dividing the slum from the international airport. The narration is centered on Abdul and his family, who make money by selling recyclable materials from the city’s garbage. Their relative wealth has afforded them a position above the trash pickers’ – they own a small storage facility that allows them to purchase waste from collectors and sell it to waste dealers.