Book Launch "Underground Sociabilities: Identity, Culture and Resistance in Rio de Janeiro's favelas"
Launching of the publication with the results of the research conducted to unveil how slum communities in Rio de Janeiro are finding alternative forms of inclusion, socialization and social regeneration capable of breaking the barriers of exclusion and marginalization. This research project was conducted by the London School of Economics, in partnership with UNESCO Brasilia Office, Itau Cultural Institute, Itau Social Foundation, AfroReggae and CUFA. It involved interlocutors at universities, social movements, the government and the private sector.
The research project consisted of an investigation on the world of slums (favelas) by means of interviews with 204 people living in the communities of Cantagalo, Cidade de Deus, Madureira, and Vigário Geral. It also involved a study about AfroReggae and CUFA organizations, with the analysis of 130 social development projects and interviews with their leaders, besides an evaluation with specialists, observers and partners of the two institutions in Rio de Janeiro, with a special emphasis on the police.
The study casts light on the so-called underground sociabilities in the slums, the practices of a social life that is part of the day-to-day of Brazilian society, but remained invisible due to geographic, economic, symbolic, behavioural, and cultural barriers. The research found out that those underground sociabilities are characterized by a complex institutional arrangement, marked by family, drug traffic, absence of the State - with the police as its sole representative connected to drug traffic -, churches, and NGOs such as AfroReggae and CUFA.
Some results of the research:
- Ever since the 1990s new social actors - youngsters, blacks, slums inhabitants - began to make themselves present in the public sphere with organized responses to poverty, violence and segregation, defying traditional models of non-governmental organizations and repositioning the slums in the agenda of Brazilian society.
- The family is central to the favela-dwellers despite being an unstable reality in their lives. Almost 70% of 12 to 17 year-olds report having an absent father, more than 25% report an absent mother and almost 20% report the absence of both parents. Grandmothers and mothers have a central role in the stabilization of life trajectories.
- The centrality of drug trade is unequivocal: drug traffic has been provider, legislator and organizer of everyday life in favelas, offering a parallel system of behavioural codes as well as a 'professional career'. It also defines the right to the city.
- The police is the main representative of the State, seen by favela-dwellers as a persecutory and aggressive, making no difference between the mere inhabitant and the drug smuggler, the criminal.
- Security is a central matter in the favela universe and the ways of socializing. There are complex relationships between the area residents, the police and the traffic factions.
- The slums residents live with two sets of security norms: those dictated by drug traffic and those imposed by the police. In order to survive, they must learn to recognize them and to adopt either one according to different situations in their daily lives.
- The area residents feel more threatened living outside the favela than inside them. The outside world is the unknown; discrimination and prejudice are very much present and the rules of the city are seen as strange and unreliable.
- The favela-dweller avoids crossing the slums/streets frontier because the city limits are seen by the individual as a source of stigma and discrimination.
- People in the slums hardly talk about their right to public security. They report frequent abuse from the police and they know they are often seen as criminals.
- There is scarce reference to the concept of citizenship and to the fact that it is the State's duty to offer a safe environment for its citizens.
- The Police Peace Units (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora - UPPs) represent change in the relationships between favela residents and the police. There is a renovated dialogue between the police and the community, bringing forth a new sense of security.
- 93% of participants enjoy living in Rio de Janeiro, but the effective bonds that link favelas to the city are marked by ambivalent representations of Rio as both beautiful and violent city.
- Favela-dwellers cope with a divided society developing two sets of representations: they perceive the city as a place regulated by ambivalent rules, where one is just an isolated and vulnerable 'individual'; the favela, to the contrary, have clear rules and one is a 'person' supported by family and friends.
- The favela-residents inhabit a world apart, with fragile institutions and the presence of an illegal enterprise (drug traffic) that until recently represented a public order parallel to the State.
- The overwhelming majority of the population in favelas works, fights, to keep themselves within legality and shows determination to escape the appeal of drug traffic.
- Results show that resistance to criminal activities is possible and disseminated in the favela world. That resistance is supported by psychosocial scaffoldings that help individuals build a positive identity and face difficulties within their slums context, building alternatives for their own lives.
About the work of AfroReggae and CUFA
- AfroReggae and CUFA are hybrid organizations that offer psychosocial scaffoldings: they act as family, state and private sector, developing competencies, offering support, organizing job opportunities and generating a new set of positive representations of the favelas and the city as a whole.
- They 'compete' directly with drug traffic by offering an alternative way of life. Their actions and interpersonal supporting structures protect against marginalization and are essential conditions for social integration.
- They constitute fundamental aspects in the trajectory of underground sociabilities. They are present in the voices of residents, in the manner with which they report their personal life, their experience within the community and, above all, in the relationship between the favelas and the city.
- They perform tasks belonging to social movements, cultural enterprises, businessmen, artists and social workers. They are a product of the slums and are deeply rooted in their world.
- They make use of art, culture, imagination and creativity to subvert stereotypes, connect urban spaces, rendering the culture of favelas visible and attractive in the eyes of the city, the country and the world.
- They build unforeseen partnerships with social movements, media, State and private sector to push favelas into the agenda of the city and offer new lenses to read favela environments.
- They act as conflict mediators. They ensure the access to the slums and communicate both with drug traffic and the police. They regenerate the built environment of favelas and construct spaces for positive sociability in the city, such as Waly Salomão Cultural Center, in Vigário Geral, and the Viaduto in Madureira.
Conclusion and recommendations:
According to the study coordinator, an important research conclusion is that the work conducted by AfroReggae and CUFA consists of an innovative social technology that can be adopted in other parts of the world. "The efficacy of those organizations derives from the wisdom, culture and identity present at the communities they belong to and represent. Their projects fulfil multiple functions and offer lessons that must be heeded. The social capital of Brazil and the social development model found in Rio can be transferred - and hugely contribute - to improve life conditions of excluded populations all over the world".
Among the conclusions and recommendations of the study are the need for investment in Girls Education, the creation of sponsored programmes for women and the development of male role models, strengthening the position of the father or other male caretakers in the route to socialization. The study also suggests an increase the range and quality of the services in favela environments, particularly in Education, and that the design and implementation of social policies be done along with the favela organizations. It is also recommended that the private sector understands the favela economy and the ethics of business development in areas of social exclusion.