The Invention of the Favela

By Licia do Prado Valladares

Translated by Robert N. Anderson

286 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, 1 map, 5 graphs, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4998-6
    Published: June 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4997-9
    Published: June 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4999-3
    Published: April 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4591-7
    Published: April 2019

Latin America in Translation

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
For the first time available in English, Licia do Prado Valladares’s classic anthropological study of Brazil’s vast, densely populated urban living environments reveals how the idea of the favela became an internationally established—and even attractive and exotic—representation of poverty. The study traces how the term “favela” emerged as an analytic category beginning in the mid-1960s, showing how it became the object of immense popular debate and sustained social science research. But the concept of the favela so favored by social scientists is not, Valladares argues, a straightforward reflection of its social reality, and it often obscures more than it reveals.

The established representation of favelas undercuts more complex, accurate, and historicized explanations of Brazilian development. It marks and perpetuates favelas as zones of exception rather than as integral to Brazil’s modernization over the past century. And it has had important repercussions for the direction of research and policy affecting the lives of millions of Brazilians. Valladares’s foundational book will be welcomed by all who seek to understand Brazil’s evolution into the twenty-first century.

About the Authors

Licia do Prado Valladares, retired professor of sociology at Instituto Universitario de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro, University Candido Mendes, and at University of Lille 1, is now an associate researcher at Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Politicos da Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.
For more information about Licia do Prado Valladares, visit the Author Page.

Robert N. Anderson is teaching assistant professor of Portuguese and coordinator of languages across the curriculum at the Center for Global Initiatives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the translator of Brazil: A Century of Change.
For more information about Robert N. Anderson, visit the Author Page.


“One of the most important anthropologists of Brazil working today, and a leading specialist on the study of favelas since the 1960s, Valladares challenges all of us scholars to question our assumptions regarding favelas, to stop relying on myths as shorthand for more complex historical explanations, and to acknowledge that favelas can no longer be understood as the precinct of the urban poor. I expect the book to be assigned widely to students of anthropology, sociology, and urban studies, as well as the history of Brazil and Latin America.”—Bryan McCann, Georgetown University

“Valladares’s incisive intellectual history of favelas provides an extremely important framework not only for correcting misperceptions about the history of favelas but also for understanding how contemporary notions of favelas have been constructed and are, in many ways, both contingent and politicized. This new and updated translation will make an important and useful contribution to debates on similar urban studies issues throughout Latin America.”—Enrique Desmond Arias, Baruch College, City University of New York