The Editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome Stephanie Savell as guest editor of an invited developing Forum on Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond
The media is full of stories about Brazil, particularly stories of urban violence, protest, and police repression. Many news stories make the link to the upcoming June 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, wondering more or less explicitly whether such violence will affect the games and visitors to Brazil. Brazilian activists and citizens have been protesting the massive spending on infrastructure and highly visible public security measures being taken in preparation for the global games, asking, among other things, “What happens in 2017?”
In Rio de Janeiro, much controversy revolves around the flagship program known as “pacification,” in which state security forces wrest territorial control of favelas from drug gangs and install police posts in these informal settlements. I just spent the past year living in the “pacified” Complexo do Alemão, a sprawling favela notorious for its crime-related street violence. Here residents perceive an ongoing battle for control between police and the still present but now slightly more covert gangs, and many believe the gangs are gaining ground. In recent months, escalating violence has many in Rio wondering whether the pacification program will collapse.
From an anthropological viewpoint, the significance of how security in urban Brazil has been developing reaches far beyond what the media portrays as preparation for the games. Current trends must be understood in the context of a history of both repressive policing and alternative community policing programs in Brazil. There are pressing questions to be asked about the deployment of the military in urban neighborhoods and the use of private security firms and personnel to fill gaps in state capacity. Additionally, there are multiple dimensions of a broader understanding of the term “security” that are obscured by the focus on public security in the context of the forthcoming global sporting events. For example, many Brazilians protest the economic and social costs of hosting the games, at a time when the government fails to meet the basic needs of citizens, and as many favela residents are displaced by infrastructure projects and real estate interests. Unemployment, racism, gender disparities, suppression of popular uprisings, lack of freedom of the press, environmental precariousness, and the enforcement of state regulations in informal settlements are just a few of the insecurities at stake in pre- and post-World Cup security practices.
Anthropologists like myself, and ethnographers in other disciplines, have in recent years been investigating ever more closely how security is experienced, understood, and contested in the everyday lives of urban Brazilians. Through historical and ethnographic fieldwork, such analyses seek to characterize the forms of governance through which security emerges. In a timely discussion leading up to the June 2014 World Cup, several of us will take the opportunity to share posts as part of a special invited forum on Anthropoliteia to discuss and reflect on some of the issues of the contemporary security moment in Brazil and shed light on what takes place behind the news.