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The Spectacular Favela

The Spectacular Favela: Violence in Modern Brazil

Erika Robb Larkins
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Spectacular Favela
    Book Description:

    In Rio de Janeiro's favelas, traffickers assert power through conspicuous displays of wealth and force, brandishing high-powered guns, gold jewelry, and piles of cash and narcotics. Police, for their part, conduct raids reminiscent of action films or video games, wearing masks and riding in enormous armored cars called "big skulls." Images of these spectacles circulate constantly in local, national, and global media, masking everyday forms of violence, prejudice, and inequality.The Spectacular Favelaoffers a rich ethnographic examination of the political economy of spectacular violence in Rocinha, Rio's largest favela. Based on more than two years of residence in the community, the book explores how entangled forms of violence shape everyday life and how that violence is, in turn, connected to the market economy.Erika Robb Larkins shows how favela violence is produced as a marketable global brand. While this violence is projected in disembodied form through media, the favela is also sold as an embodied experience through the popular practice of favela tourism. The commodification of the favela becomes a form of violence itself; favela violence is transformed into a commercially viable byproduct of a profit-driven war on drugs, which serves to keep the poor marginalized. This book tells the story of how traffickers, police, cameras, tourists, and even anthropologists come together to create what the author calls the "spectacular favela."

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95869-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    November 2008. I was in the kitchen making breakfast when I heard the sound of Peter’s voice from below the window. Peter was a twenty-something Brazilian American who volunteered at one of the nonprofit organizations where I worked and who rented the apartment downstairs.¹ I poked my head out and looked up and down the narrow alley of the favela.² Peter stood below the window, hands gesturing rapidly, trying to explain something to Chucky, one of the narco-soldiers who regularly patrolled the neighborhood in the favela of Rocinha where I had been living and conducting fieldwork.

    The heavily armed traffickers...

  5. 1 The Narco–Traffic
    (pp. 28-54)

    Beto is wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the words “Thug Life” (in English) printed on it.¹ A small caliber handgun is tucked into his shorts. His bodyguards stand a few feet away sharing a large joint and admiring the panoramic view of the city before them. The lights are coming on and twinkling. “Turn on your tape recorder,” he says. “I am happy to get a chance to talk, to communicate with the outside world.”²

    At twenty-eight, Beto was considered a veteran. Responsible for Rocinha’s security, he oversaw the punishment of those who violated the rules for proper conduct as...

  6. 2 The Penal State
    (pp. 55-79)

    March 2009. The night before the police invaded Rocinha my narco-trafficker neighbors were preparing for war. As the static of their walkie-talkies intermittently broke the silence in the unusually quiet favela, they donned black police uniforms and strapped on extra weapons.¹ Tipped off first by informants in the police station and then by the conspicuous movement of the hundreds of officers sent to invade the favela, the men next door took to the forest trails above the favela, taking care to leave their front door open before they left so that it would not be kicked in by the police....

  7. 3 Favela, Inc.
    (pp. 80-108)

    Carnaval, 1959. A lively samba band parades through the dirt streets of the hillside favela, where simple wooden houses are constructed amidst a mainly rural landscape. Palm trees offer shade to playing children. Women sew brightly colored Carnaval costumes, laughing together and joking with passersby. People samba barefoot in the street, moved by the infectious beat of the band. A clean and modern city stretches out in the background. The sparkling water of Guanabara Bay below glimmers in the sun.

    This snapshot of Rio comes from the classic filmOrfeu Negro(Black Orpheus, 1959), a tropical version of the Greek...

  8. 4 The Tourists
    (pp. 109-137)

    March 2008. The filmCity of Godbegins with a chicken destined to be dinner at a favela barbeque. The camera takes in the chicken’s strut as it moves among the raucous crowd and then zooms in on the hand of the drug boss sharpening a knife against a grindstone. Sensing its impending death, the chicken takes off down one of the favela’s narrow alleyways as the boss and his guests give chase. As the tempo of the music builds, the camera shifts to Rocket, the protagonist of the film, who is himself running through the alleys of the favela,...

  9. 5 “Peace”
    (pp. 138-158)

    November 2011. In the days prior to the pacification of Rocinha, the traffickers who had long controlled the community held a number of lavish farewell parties for themselves. With DJs playing the latest funk beats and free beer for all, these parties represented the last hurrah of one of the most stable and powerful drug regimes in Rio’s recent history. The high-profile traffickers packed their things, bid their constituents an intoxicated, emotional farewell, and left Rocinha in anticipation of the permanent presence of the so-called pacifying police forces. Minor players who could fly under police radar stayed behind to covertly...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 159-172)

    May 2009. It is dark by the time the car turns up the bumpy road to the dump. We ride in silence, noting the empty trucks lumbering past us, coming out of Jardim Gramacho, the largest garbage dump in Latin America.¹ We slow at the entrance, where Curtis tries to explain our visit, finally turning to me to explain for him, pulling some forms with stamps and signatures out of his camera bag. “They are American journalists,” I say. “I am the translator. We have come to do interviews in the dump. They were just here this morning but wanted...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 173-206)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-238)