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A critical organizational history of city margins in the Global South

Carlos César de Oliveira Lacerda (Universidade Estadual do Ceara, Fortaleza, Brazil)
Ana Sílvia Rocha Ipiranga (Universidade Estadual do Ceara, Fortaleza, Brazil)
Ulf Thoene (EICEA, Universidad de La Sabana, Bogotá, Colombia)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 28 February 2023

Issue publication date: 22 March 2023




The city of Fortaleza, capital of the state of Ceará in the north-east of Brazil, presents a paradox as a present-day tourist destination, while also marked by features and processes characteristic of cities in the Global South, such as high levels of social inequality with fragmented urban margins and vulnerabilities. This research problematizes the idea of “historical ruins” proposed by Walter Benjamin as a viable way to understand how the organization process of today's city margins can be “denaturalized” by the past. The objective of this research is to assess how the urban margins of the city were organized as a history of resistance.


In theoretical terms, this research links critical urban studies with critical approaches to organizational history (COH) based on Walter Benjamin's philosophical concepts of “ruins” and “progress”. The historical and archival methodology, consisting of 193 documents, suggests the existence of a philosophical–historical nexus that helps explain the spatial fragmentation of the city, and especially the urban margins in the western region of Fortaleza.


The Benjaminian notion of “historical ruins” has been exemplified by the Brazilian government practices confining migrants fleeing drought in internment camps on the margins of the city of Fortaleza in three waves beginning in 1877, 1915 and 1932 respectively. The effects of such confinement policies put into practice in the name of “progress” influenced the organization of large urban spaces on the city's margins, whereas on the other hand, the analyses advanced in this research reflect on alternatives to re-frame the history of the organization of the margins of Fortaleza through a set of practices of resistance.


Based on the concept of “denaturalization”, and through re-activation of the memory of a circumstantial past, the gaze of the “ruins”, as represented by the belief in “progress” addressed in official reports of government confinement policies, spaces of resistance have emerged where new possibilities for the future of the city can be imagined.



Oliveira Lacerda, C.C.d., Rocha Ipiranga, A.S. and Thoene, U. (2023), "A critical organizational history of city margins in the Global South", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 22-45.



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