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Project title: The Creation of Favelas as Sites Necessitating Pacification

Research question:

How is the favela constructed as a space, an identity, and as a site that necessitates pacification?

Project description

The study of geography begins deconstructing the concept of space as something that simply exists; instead, place and space emerge as a product of our interactions, institutions, and material worlds. As such, space is “shot through” with ideology and power based on who is defining it (Knott 2009, Agnew 2011). In this same way, favelas—home to 1.5 million or about 23-24% of Rio de Janeiro’s residents—do not just exist as reified places. Favelas are meticulously defined through discourse and bounded by borders through maps. As a home to so many, there are few definitions that can be applied to all favelas. Materially, favelas can be defined as creative adaptations of built environment stemming from an unmet need for housing (Williamson). However, I am interested in the creation of favela as a place developed through active constructive discourse and the implications of that discourse. Specifically, how is the favela constructed as a space, an identity, and a site that necessitates pacification?

In 2008 Rio’s government launched a project to pacify its favelas through the implementation of Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) that would establish a continuous military presence in communities. Words such as pacification and securitization were used in the project to develop an image of peace and safety. Questions that I want to ask include: How does this discourse allow armed action to be legitimized? And who is pacification done through versus who is pacification for? Often times, pacification is neither peaceful nor safe, and my research attempts to answer the above questions while also raising the voices of the people who became objects of pacification.

I have already conducted archival research of the state’s construction of the favela as a site of pacification through digital documents. I also have spent the summer in Rio doing journalistic reporting through the perspectives of favela residents. I look forward to using the Gillian T. Cell Senior Thesis Research Award as well as the Geography department’s Fall 2016 Seed Research Award to return to Rio and gather data through focus groups and interviews on favela residents’ perceptions of the government’s discourse.


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