Based on longitudinal ethnographic work, the authors of this special issue on the politics of the urban poor examine how regional events as well as scholarly traditions in these places have influenced the way the categories of the urban poor and of politics have emerged in both scholarly and public discourse. As the discussions that follow make clear, the relation between urban processes and city forms is a volatile one, and this volatility in turn has a decisive effect on how the poor emerge as political actors. Further, liberal forms of citizenship are but one form among others that become materialized through the claims that the poor make on the state. More importantly, the essays show that the socialities that undergird the lives of the poor are constantly being shaped by the experiences of precarity that go beyond material scarcity.