Summer is here and that means that most of us will no doubt be undertaking fieldwork of some sort. But fear not, as we here at In the Journals will continue to provide monthly round-ups of the latest articles regarding surveillance, governance, and policing for the entirety of the summer.
By Scott Jacques
Code of the Suburb, which I co-authored with Richard Wright, is based on interviews with 30 adolescents who grew up and sold drugs in middle-class suburbia. Why did they get into drug dealing? How did they procure and distribute their supply? How did they prevent and respond to victimization, legal trouble, and parental problems? Why did they quit? The answers are to be found at the intersection of the dealers’ attempts to be cool while simultaneously pursuing conventional success. This is the book in a nutshell.
Anyone who has read Anderson’s Code of the Street instantly will recognize that he influenced my work. Both codes – street and suburban – are informal rules governing interpersonal behavior, particularly violence. The major difference between them is that the code of the street maintains that violence is a good, or at least an acceptable, way to handle conflict, whereas the code of the suburb holds the opposite to be true.
In my book, the code of the suburb revealed itself in how the sellers responded to being stolen from. The stereotypical understanding of dealers is that they abide by the code of the street and, therefore, their modal response to victimization is violent retaliation. Yet the suburban dealers rarely acted as vigilantes, and even when they did, minor bruises rather than bullet wounds were the result. Instead, they responded to victimization with more peaceful means, such as trying to talk out a resolution with the offender, cutting them off, or doing nothing. When I asked the dealers to explain their nonviolent responses, they often said things like “I don’t want to hurt somebody” and “Better to write stuff like that off.”
Though someone may have uttered it before me, to my knowledge I coined the phrase “code of the suburb.” What I like about it is that people instantly get what it is that I am referring to, so long as they are already familiar with the code of the street. However, what I label the code of the suburb is very similar to what M.P. Baumgartner, author of The Moral Order of a Suburb, calls a “philosophy of moral minimalism.”
Referring to this philosophy, Baumgartner explains that
[T]he most basic component of this system is a strong conviction that conflict is a social contaminant, something to be prevented if at all possible and to be ended quickly once begun.
She goes on to further describe this philosophy, which includes being embarrassed by embroilment in public conflict, a negative attitude toward violence, and positive opinions of toleration and avoidance. A testament to her work, and why I admire it, is that she more or less predicted and described my participants’ orientation to conflict years before they ever took up drug selling.
Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Baumgartner, M. P. 1988. The Moral Order of a Suburb. New York: Oxford University Press.
Scott Jacques is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University. His work has been published in journals such as Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, The International Journal of Drug Policy, The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Justice Quarterly, and Theoretical Criminology. His book (co-authored with Richard Wright) is entitled Code of the Suburb: Inside the World of Young Middle-Class Drug Dealers (University of Chicago Press).
My book, Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela, examines the social production of insecurity in a poor neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, paying particular attention to how multiple, overlapping forms of urban violence impact the residents of a neighborhood that I call Caxambu. I try to show how the neighborhood is experienced as a profoundly contradictory space. On the one hand, it is a place of social intimacy, pride, and creativity, reflecting the deep social ties that bind many of its residents and the years of work that they’ve put into building their homes, streets and alleys. Yet at the same time it is often a space of social marginalization and unpredictably lethal violence, reflecting how drug-trafficking and policing conspire to disorganize daily life.
Why has Brazil’s 1988 democratic constitution advanced in promoting broad civil and economic rights while leaving (almost) unchanged the regulation of the police and armed forces? What’s the impact of Brazil’s Human Rights National Program in recent efforts of democratizing Brazilian society and building up an alternative to a minimal neoliberal state? Why have some types of public security policies been defined without much clarity, especially those that target the non-white-elites? These are some of the questions that Paulo de Mesquita Neto – a Brazilian scholar in political science who prematurely died in 2008 – asks in this collection of essays that he gathered under the rubric of Essays on citizen security. The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America – a grammar not too simple to practice in a continent that during the 1960s and 1970s surrendered to several authoritarian regimes whose marks are still noticeable, if not overly prominent, in current political culture and public debates.
The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America
The Brazilian army and marines have in recent years played a more visible role in the provision of public security in Rio de Janeiro. The army currently occupies the sprawling set of informal neighborhoods, or favelas, known as Complexo da Maré, a “temporary solution” timed to accompany World Cup events in the city. The occupation, intended to repress the local control of drug trafficking gangs, will be followed by the installation of more permanent “Police Pacifying Units,” or “UPPs,” as part of Rio’s favela “pacification” program.
Between 2011 and 2012, the armed forces similarly occupied the favela Complexo do Alemão, where I lived for a year conducting ethnographic research (2013-2014). Here, based on that research, I examine the significance of the army’s participation in public security.
Many insiders and keen observers of security in Rio were quick to tell me that the army’s deployment in police pacification is not a trend – Alemão was unique, they said. But in addition to the current deployment in Maré, there are other indications to the contrary. In recent years, the constitutional clause, Garantia da Lei e da Ordem (GLO), or “Guarantee of Law and Order,” which allows for the use of the military in public security operations, has been continuously elaborated and refined. Under former President Lula’s administration, and now under Dilma Rousseff, the military has been used for an increasing number of situations, from pacification to oil auctions to the Pope’s visit and the World Cup. These are not isolated events; they invite us to question the military’s provision of public security and how it is understood, especially by security forces and by the urban poor whose neighborhoods the military patrols. Continue reading
Our first contact with the Fazenda dos Mineiros community was by chance encounter. We were invited to visit the home of a friend, Gilberto Lima, a community leader who works in Rio de Janeiro and São Gonçalo on children’s rights, among other issues of social justice. Gilberto was the uncle of a friend back in the US who helped one of us prepare for our respective Fulbright terms, and for hospitality’s sake, he invited us over for lunch. What we didn’t know was how much the visit would influence our nine months in Brazil.