Tip of the Cap

Surreptitious Creativities behind Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela

We would like to welcome Ben Penglase in this latest edition of our monthly feature, Tip of the Cap.

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.

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Commentary & Forums, Dispatches, From the Field, Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond

The Other Side of the Bay – Social Consequences Across from Rio de Janeiro

The editors of Anthropoliteia welcome Nick Wong and Stuart Davis with the latest entry in our forum Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond.
Photo by Nick Wong CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

A young boy playing in Fazenda dos Mineiros. Many of the toys provided to the children are donations from church organizations and other social programs aimed at helping these communities. They are insured to be in good working condition before donation, but due to the large demand for toys, children remain with the same toy for years. Photo by Nick Wong CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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.

Located 15 miles across the Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro’s historic downtown, the city of São Gonçalo has followed a much different path than its famous neighbor.[1] Continue reading

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Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond

Pacifying Rio’s Favelas: innovation, adaptation or continuity?

Photo: SEASDH - Secretaria de Assistência Social e Direitos Humanos, Rio de Janeiro

Photo: SEASDH – Secretaria de Assistência Social e Direitos Humanos, Rio de Janeiro

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome Ben Penglase with the latest entry in our developing forum, Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond.

Brazil’s favela “pacification” policy, implemented by the state government of Rio de Janeiro beginning in 2008, is the most recent example of efforts by the Brazilian authorities to produce security. Coming before Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup this June, and before Rio hosts the Olympics in 2016, and tackling that most visible and now internationally-renowned symbol of urban chaos – the city’s hillside favelas – the policy has attracted widespread attention. The Rio authorities have lost no opportunity to dramatize the supposed “take-over” of favelas by the army and police – often planting the Brazilian flag in neighborhoods “rescued” from drug traffickers – and the UPP (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or Police Pacifying Unit) policy has become symbolic of a wider attempt by Brazilian authorities to create a safe urban landscape. Yet events in the past two years have called the UPP’s success into question. Shoot-outs between drug-dealers and police in several favelas where UPP units are in place, and a massive protest by residents of the favelas of Pavão-Pavãozinho and Cantagalo after the suspicious death of Douglas “DG” Pereira, have brought media attention to those who question the policy’s effectiveness.

In the midst of all this visibility and scrutiny of the UPP policy, several fundamental assumptions about the “pacification” policy often go unexamined. Drawing upon my own history of observing changes and continuities in policing in Brazil, and especially in Rio, for over twenty years, I would like to problematize these guiding assumptions which have often framed depictions of the pacification policy by both the media and Rio’s policy-makers. Continue reading

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Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond

Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond

Riot police gather in front of a mural of the mascot for the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, called Fuleco, near the Maracana stadium ahead of the Confederations Cup soccer final between Brazil and Spain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (Source: AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Riot police gather in front of a mural of the mascot for the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, called Fuleco, near the Maracanã stadium ahead of the Confederations Cup soccer final between Brazil and Spain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (Source: AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

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.

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Announcements, Conferences

Anthropoliteia at the American Anthropological Association Meetings (2010, NOLA version)

Since people seemed to find it helpful last year, I’ve decided to try and make A@AAA an annual feature.  So here you go, my annual round-up of police, crime and security events at this year’s American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings.  As always, if you know about a session or paper that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list.

Wednesday, Nov. 17th

1:15pm

2:15pm

2:30pm

9:00-9:15pm

Thursday, Nov. 18th

8:00-9:45am

10:15am-12:00pm

1:45-3:30pm

4:30pm

5:05pm

Friday, Nov. 19th

8:00am

2:30-3:00pm

2:45pm

3:45pm

4:30pm

Saturday, Nov. 20th

10:15-10:30am

1:45-3:30

Sunday, Nov. 21st

8:00-9:45am

8:15am

8:30am

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