21.10.2013 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

Itaú Cultural and UNESCO promote an event to launch the book "Underground Sociabilities: identity, culture and resistance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas" in Sao Paulo

In what way are favela communities in Rio de Janeiro finding alternative forms of integration, socialization and social regeneration capable of breaking the barriers of exclusion and marginalization? Unveiling those forms of sociability was the main goal of the study launched on 13 September 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, during the International Seminar Underground Sociabilities: identity, culture and resistance in marginalized communities.

Tuesday, 22 October, at 19h30, Itau Cultural Institute and UNESCO will promote the event to launch the publication Underground Sociabilities: identity, culture and resistance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The book is the result of a study conducted by the British institution, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), in partnership with UNESCO in Brazil, AfroReggae, CUFA, Itaú Cultural, and Itaú Social. It involved speakers from universities, social movements, the government and private initiatives. 

The study was the research project consisted of an investigation on the world of 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 alternative forms of integration, socialization and social regeneration capable of breaking the barriers of exclusion and marginalization found in the communities of favelas in Rio de Janeiro provide a unique tone to the open conversation with the public that will be conducted by the study coordinator and author of the book, Sandra Jovchelovitch, who is the head researcher and director of the Masters Program in Social Psychology of LSE. The discussion will also count with the presence of Jaqueline Priego Hernandez, co-author of the study; Silvia Ramos, professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Celso Athayde, founder of CUFA; and Washington Luís de Oliveira Rimas, known as “Feijão”, representative of Afroreggae, where he works as an agent of community projects in Vigario Geral and Parada de Lucas.  The mediation of the discussion will be made by the journalist Zeca Camargo.

The study and some results

The study casts light on the so-called underground sociabilities in the favelas, 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, behavioral, 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. Here are some results of the study:

  • 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.

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.

SERVICE
Launching of the book
Underground Sociabilities: identity, culture and resistance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas
Followed by a discussion with Sandra Jovchelovitch, Jaqueline Priego Hernandez , Silvia Ramos, Celso Athayde , Washington Luís de Oliveira Rimas (“Feijão”), and mediated by Zeca Camargo
22 October (Tuesday)
From 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: welcome coffee
7:30: discussion session
9 p.m.: cocktail and book authographs
Venue: Itau Cultural Room (219 seats)
Free entrance (tickets will be distributed 30 minutes before the event)

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