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Authors: Latrèche, Roxane
Advisors: Centeno, Miguel
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: The growing economic competition between global metropolises has given rise to complex city marketing brands, through which cities advertise their wide and unique range of tourist attractions and physical landscapes. Caught in the race for investment and capital, Rio de Janeiro has seen its urban landscape evolve significantly in the course of the past decades. Specifically, the urban manifestations of various branding strategies seem to have erected a Potemkin façade over the realities of the city’s sociopolitical and economic dynamics – that is, while the external and superficial appearance of the city appeals to the global eye, much of Rio de Janeiro’s population remains poverty-stricken and marginalized. As an atypical example of a Potemkin city, due in part to its cultural and social geography, Rio de Janeiro has failed to establish consistent and adequate urban reforms to progressively upgrade destitute residents’ living conditions, most notably in its slum areas, or favelas. What makes Rio de Janeiro an atypical Potemkin city? How is the city branded in order to contribute to the tourism industry? And most importantly, what are the socioeconomic and political implications on its inhabitants of branding the city of Rio de Janeiro? Relying on Rio de Janeiro’s urban and political histories, comparisons with past and contemporary examples of Potemkin cities, and on-site observations, I explore the case of Rio de Janeiro as a unique example of a Potemkin city. By using the city’s urban landscape, architecture, cultural life, and inhabitants as part of the Rio de Janeiro’s city brand, the dual entity formed by government authorities and the tourism industry is creating a façade of both modernity and cosmopolitanism, and “authentic” Brazilianness and exoticism, to appeal to the tourist’s eye. First defining the concept of the Potemkin city with reference to a range of examples, I then examine city branding strategies and how they are employed in Rio de Janeiro. I focus on the favelas as a dual and paradoxical symbol of both the marginalization of the city’s poor and the unique carioca cultural experience. I end this study by exploring the policy implications of Rio de Janeiro’s city branding efforts, investigating the means through which the government has sought to mitigate the negative impacts of Rio’s branding, their effectiveness, and potential alternatives.
Extent: 124 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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