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.


Studying Military, Security & Intelligence Communities Ethics Casebook by the American Anthropological Association

I don’t know how many of you have been following the machinations of the CEAUSSIC committee of the American Anthropological Association, but over the last several years they’ve been getting together to think through the admittedly thorny problem of the relationship between anthropologists and those involved in military, security and intelligence communities.  As an effort to step away from grand proclamations towards thinking about what actual anthropologists in actual situations do and the decisions they make, the committee is putting together a case book in anthropological ethics.  In fact, they’re looking for contributors:

We need more cases and are actively working our own networks to encourage our colleagues to provide material for the book. Rob Albro and I are spearhending this project. We have contacted friends and colleagues who work in federal agencies, but we are also interested in talking to anthropologists who self-identify as having some involvement in military, intelligence, or other forms of national security work, or who have studied or critiqued some form of national security practice. Rather than define “national security,” we are asking our contributors to tell us what that category means in their work-lives, because we think it is important that anthropologists in national security explain what this sweeping affiliation actually means. The cases must be grounded in real-world experience, even if the details are disguised; but to ensure anonymity, we are working collaboratively with our contributors to make appropriate, case-by-case decisions about publishing the contributor’s identities and disguising identifying details, such as precise places or institutions or names.

We expect to publish this case collection as a set of discussion materials for use in classrooms. We are also talking with other AAA committees involved in ethics to develop mechanisms for expanding and maintaining grounded conversations about ethics, perhaps in the form of an ethics blog, an annual update to the casebook which we hope to be made available online, or regular sessions at the Annual Meetings where we can present and debate particularly provocative or timely cases. We are also open to any creative suggestions about how maximize the relevance of this casebook, as a point of reference in ongoing disciplinary discussion on ethics, disciplinary practice, and security.

via CEAUSSIC: Ethics Casebook « American Anthropological Association.

Now, on the one hand, this seems an exactly appropriate move.  On the other hand, I find interesting the lack of involvement in these discussions (at least so far, as far as I know) by any of us who understand ourselves as working on “the police”.

I’m just thinking on my feet a bit here, but I can come up with a few reasons why this might be:

  1. Demographics.  People who are part of these conversations tend to be already firmly established in the field–it’s unlikely that a junior scholar (which all of us are) gets asked to be a part of such things, and conversely, it’s not really the kind of thing junior scholars are burning to be a part of–careers aren’t exactly made on ethics committees.
  2. Conceptualizing “police” and “security”.  The problem with possibility #1 is that there’s no “old-school” police studiers either (although who that might include, I think, is a good question).  This suggests the much more interesting possibility that the lack of police-studiers has more to do with an as-yet (as far as I can tell)  unremarked contour of the ethical problem itself–an ethical element that distinguishes the types of violence the police use, and/or anthropologists’ relationship to it, versus the military.  I haven’t quite got my finger on what that might be, but I think it might be an interesting place to try to work through the particular stakes of “anthropoliteia”…
  3. No good reason.  Of course, perhaps I’m over-thinking this and one of us should offer to contribute to the casebook