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The Patchwork City

Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila

The Patchwork City

Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

In contemporary Manila, slums and squatter settlements are peppered throughout the city, often pushing right up against the walled enclaves of the privileged, creating the complex geopolitical pattern of Marco Z. Garrido’s “patchwork city.” Garrido documents the fragmentation of Manila into a mélange of spaces defined by class, particularly slums and upper- and middle-class enclaves. He then looks beyond urban fragmentation to delineate its effects on class relations and politics, arguing that the proliferation of these slums and enclaves and their subsequent proximity have intensified class relations. For enclave residents, the proximity of slums is a source of insecurity, compelling them to impose spatial boundaries on slum residents. For slum residents, the regular imposition of these boundaries creates a pervasive sense of discrimination. Class boundaries then sharpen along the housing divide, and the urban poor and middle class emerge not as labor and capital but as squatters and “villagers,” Manila’s name for subdivision residents. Garrido further examines the politicization of this divide with the case of the populist president Joseph Estrada, finding the two sides drawn into contention over not just the right to the city, but the nature of democracy itself.

The Patchwork City illuminates how segregation, class relations, and democracy are all intensely connected.  It makes clear, ultimately, that class as a social structure is as indispensable to the study of Manila—and of many other cities of the Global South—as race is to the study of American cities.

288 pages | 21 halftones, 3 line drawings, 16 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Political Science: Urban Politics

Sociology: Collective Behavior, Mass Communication, Individual, State and Society, Urban and Rural Sociology


"The Patchwork City should be considered an achievement for its theoretical innovations, and just as importantly for its documenting—and thereby its recognizing—of voices that are so often omitted from the conventional historical record. It is an arresting rumination on how people on either side of the class divide strategically wield different forms of power—political, economic, moral—in attempts to salvage dignity and assert their worth as citizens under conditions of democratic crisis. This book will be of interest to not only scholars studying the Philippines or the Global South, but also to those interested more broadly in urban sociology, inequality, and contentious politics."

American Journal of Sociology

"Garrido provides a compelling new read based on careful archival and ethnographic research. . . . Patchwork City contributes to urban geography through its political-sociological-ethnographic understandings of space, politics, and urban experiences in a country plagued by persistent urban poverty, stubborn social inequality, and structural unemployment within the Global South. It will interest scholars and general readers, as well as beginner and advanced undergraduate and graduate students in sociology, Southeast Asian studies, political science, political geography, social movement studies, and urban planning studies."

Pacific Affairs

“Making an important contribution to the study of cities and social class, this fascinating account of Manila illuminates how spatial boundaries and social barriers both link and separate the experiences, dispositions, and behavior of the middle class and the urban poor. Beautifully crafted, The Patchwork City incisively connects structure and meaning to illuminate the breakdown of cross-class links and account for the disenchantment with democracy.”

Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

“Deftly combining insights from political and urban sociology with scholarship on symbolic boundaries and morality, The Patchwork City sheds new light on the intersections and interactions between class, space, and politics. The lessons learned in this carefully researched ethnography travel well beyond Philippine politics: those interested in understanding the puzzles and paradoxes of the populist appeal among the dispossessed, and, more generally, the on-the-ground tensions between democracy and exorbitant inequality, should read this book.”

Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin

“In what promises to be a milestone in urban ethnography, The Patchwork City provides an illuminating picture of the dynamic relations among the poor, the middle classes, and political elites in a struggling, troubled democracy where political mobilization along populist lines becomes the main avenue for demanding and delivering scarce goods and services. Among the merits of this work is that it reveals the authoritarian temptation latent in populism that may eventually surface in the form of a Rodrigo Duterte or Jair Bolsonaro.”

Walden Bello, University of the Philippines

"The Patchwork City is a major contribution to the field; it is a timely book that enhances sociological understandings of space, politics, and urban experiences in the Global South."

Social Forces

"An essential read for scholars of urban politics, Southern cities, and contemporary populism, and it nicely complements the recent revival of scholarship on political articulation. Garrido's clear writing and careful organization will also make this book of interest to ethnographers, development scholars, and indeed, to sociologists of all stripes."

City and Community

"This is a good book, one which addresses an important topic."

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Table of Contents


1 The Stakes and Approach
2 The Argument

Part One. From Urban Fragmentation to Class Division

3 Interspersion
4 Imposing Boundaries: Villagers
5 Boundary Imposition: Squatters

Part Two. From Class Division to Political Dissensus

Introduction to Part Two
6 The Politics of Electoral Siege
7 The Politics of Recognition
8 Dissensus

Appendix: Selecting Cases and Getting Access


Asia and Asian America section, American Sociological Association: Asia/Transnational Book Award

ASA Global and Transnational Sociology Section: Best Scholarly Book Award

ASA Political Sociology Section: Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award in Political Sociology

ASA Community and Urban Sociology Section: Robert E. Park Award

Society for the Study of Social Problems: SSSP Global Division Book Award

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