Filippo Bignami, from SUPSI

Interview: Urban Regimes and Citizenship

swissnex Brazil was proud to host the “Urban Regimes and Citizenship” workshop, a result of preliminary research of Swiss and Brazilian experts. The project is a cooperation between SUPSI (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland) and the Institute of Urban and Regional Research and Planning (IPPUR) of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and FAPERJ (Rio de Janeiro’s Research Funding Foundation).

The research project intends to understand democratic conditions, especially in socially vulnerable contexts and develop an innovative education model to increase community participation on many levels, such as local politics, civic and political movements, parties and policy making. The Swiss-Italian Researchers Filippo Bignami and Niccolò Cuppini, from SUPSI, told us a bit more about their work.

What is you research about?

Filippo – We are setting up a citizenship education module that will be tested in schools of Rio de Janeiro. We’ve done quantitative analysis of several indicators about urban regimes and citizenship in 21 municipalities of Rio de Janeiro. From this quantitative phase, some particular areas are emerging, on which we are focusing the intervention with educational tools. We’re driven to concentrate on social inclusion and to increase democratic conditions.

Niccolò – It’s in a way a binary research, I’m developing more about the urban regime and the understanding of how the city works, how its transformations are led and who the actors are that concretely intervene and change the city. Rio is a very interesting case study. For us, it has to some extent a global meaning because of the global events that took place here. With our colleagues at IPPUR we are trying to understand what kind of coalitions and actors were playing to develop the city in terms of transportation, political change, housing and so on. One of the goals of the research at the end is to merge these two binaries to develop a new model of understanding how cities change impact on citizenship and how citizenship improvement can help the city’s evolution.

How’s it going to be applied?

Filippo – We are putting together both approaches in order to enable an educational process. Right now, we are defining contents of the educational module and in the next month we will test it with two or three teachers to refine and adjust it if necessary. We will release a version 2.0 next year with another test and we hope to have a final education module at the end of the project. We’re addressing it to secondary schools.

Switzerland and Brazil have different democratic experiences and polities. How can this diversity and knowledge exchange contribute to reduce this citizenship gap in Brazil?

Filippo – One aim of the module is to foster and to increase the participation, the awareness of each individual’s role in the collectivity. With this project, we would like to support a performative approach in being citizens. In this sense, we take inspiration as well from some forms of federal polities in order to take charge of positive aspects of participation.

Niccolò – Schools we would like to work with and universities that we already do, are somehow places of democracy, places where citizens can empower themselves in terms of being conscious and develop a critical perspective of the society. Doing cooperation at university level is by itself a way to work together, cooperate and improve. In my mind, I’m not here to teach Brazil something, but also to learn and to exchange knowledge about how societies can mutually grow together.


Niccolò Cuppini (right), from SUPSI and Brazilian researcher Humberto Meza, from IPPUR/UFRJ

Niccolò Cuppini (right), from SUPSI and Brazilian researcher Humberto Meza, from IPPUR/UFRJ