Mega-Events and the Neoliberal Production of Space in Rio de Janeiro

By Sam Smith
2016, Vol. 8 No. 03 | pg. 4/7 |

(In)visible Violence

Social Spaces interpenetrate one another and/or superimpose themselves upon one another. They are not things, which have mutually limiting boundaries and which collide because of their contours or as a result of inertia…Visible boundaries, such as walls or enclosures in general give rise for their part to an appearance of separation between spaces where in fact what exists is an ambiguous continuity. - Henri Lefebvre, The Social Production of Space (1991:87)

When I travelled to Rio de Janeiro in January of 2011, I received contradictory messages regarding the ‘safety’ of the city’s favelas. My middle-class friends in São Paulo had warned me against setting foot there, suggesting that I would be at best scorned as a North American tourist, and at worst robbed or murdered. These narratives were largely contrary to those of my host in Rio de Janeiro, who spoke casually of the favela residents as his friends, and volunteered at a local community center that fostered opportunities for children from the nearby favela to create art and music.

From Igreja da Penha, a church perched precariously on a large rock outcropping overlooking the Complexo do Alemão, I had a bird’s eye view of the scene below, which was being described as a war zone. At the time, a massive military police mobilization was underway in the attempt to drive drug traffickers from the neighborhood, and prepare it for the insertion of Pacifying Police Units (UPPs). Raids in the preceding months had resulted in the flight of many traffickers. Military police stood guard at the church in order to guarantee that tourists remained segregated from what was being called a ‘Gaza Strip’, a zone of violence that was, for all of us, too close for comfort.

Discourses of violence in the slums here focused on the highly visible forms of narcotraffickers and the militarized police forces of Rio de Janeiro. However, the pre-eminence of such discourses of abjection also elide and make invisible forms of violence that are structural, and embedded in the historical production of urban space. I suggest that the present Olympic development projects take the form of infrastructural violence that is co-constitutive with more apparent forms of state violence.

I aim to highlight the ways in which forms of harm that are obscured by development discourse are co-produced with highly visible forms of violence. I also want to examine the ways in which neoliberal ideology has served to produce particular ideas about favelas as urban spaces, and connected outcomes for their material conditions. I suggest that these two forms, discursive and material, as abstract and concrete space (Lefebvre 1991), work in concert in the creation of ‘Olympicized’ spaces.

As I noted in chapter one, the favela appears as a distinct locus in the continuing saga of neoliberal ‘slum-upgrades,’ with its own consortium of heterogeneous desires and cultural history (Rodgers 2012, Nuijten 2013). Spatial production occurs in the construction of favelas both as ideas and as geographically located zones in the city. Forms of state neglect also interact with popular notions of criminality to form the disjuncture of the favela from what is popularly understood as ‘public’ space. Additionally, police pacification works in concert with forms of infrastructural control and discipline, in which efforts to integrate the favela into the marketplace are simultaneous with attempts to distance the urban poor from the public gaze. In this sense, the very presence of residents comes to be articulated as either that of a threat to Olympic security, or as an object for development.

A ‘politics of connectivity’ (Amin 2004) here emerges as integration is sought through free-market ideologies, in urban development projects that seek to make the favela ‘safe’ for capital investments and tourism. Concrete and imaginative forms of integration and fragmentation of urban space occur simultaneously, as residents are expelled at the same time that the favelas are turned into ‘new neighborhoods’, both gentrified and militarized. Through specific constellations of spatio-temporal practices that are multi-scalar in their dimensions, demolition and development occur as part of the contested material and discursive efforts by city and mega-event planners to redesign Rio de Janeiro in the image of a ‘dream world of neoliberalism’ (Mike Davis 2007).

In this chapter, I argue that visible and invisible forms of violence occur in tandem, facilitated by privatization and securitization. I argue that these processes take place in the context of a Foucauldian neoliberal governmentality, in which a government takes as its organizing principle rational profit-maximization (Foucault 2008 [1979]). Citing reactions to the PAC ‘Marvelous Port’ project, I argue that the meaning and scale of the neighborhood as a unit of the city occupies contested ground, as the latest in a long history of development discourses that obscure recognition of the plight of the urban poor. I then detail the close connection between militarization and privatization of space, where police occupation participates in gentrification and the broader politics of connectivity by driving up property values. Drawing upon the work of Caldeira (2000) I argue that privatization stands in discursive and material opposition to uses of public space practiced by favela residents. Finally, I examine the role of visibility as a means of contesting neo-liberal scale-making projects, looking at the metaphorical and technical means employed by moradores to and subvert the goals of violent neoliberal .

The Analytic of Infrastructural Violence

“Infrastructure cannot be conceived of as a neutral set of systems and interactions, but is perhaps better thought of as ‘politics pursued by other means.’” - Bruno Latour, How to write The Prince for machines as well as machinations (1988)

Infrastructural development in connection to the Olympics is not a simple matter of improving the lives of Rio’s residents in an egalitarian, linear teleological trajectory. Rather, it is part of the reproduction of spatial segregation and hierarchy of the city, at the same time that it brings material comforts desired by people of diverse class backgrounds. The discourses of infrastructure work in ways that are pervasive, adaptive, and profoundly naturalized, such that forms of structural violence can be made invisible. In this section, I describe a theoretical approach to the naturalization of these forms of everyday, ‘infrastructural violence’ as imbricated with rational neoliberal government.

Rodgers (2012) writes of such invisible forms of violence, at play in the construction of avenues in Managua, Nicaragua. He suggests that the collusion of urban planning interests and ideal infrastructural architecture, when combined with mass evictions and pacification, there make the analytic of infrastructural violence a compelling one to speak about the class-based implications of the city’s modernization as ‘development’. These development discourses function as a kind of “anti-politics machine” (Ferguson 1994) that constructs development as rational, teleological, and in keeping with the depoliticized symbolism of Olympic spectacle.

As McFarlane and Rutherford (2008) remind us, “traditional accounts of urban politics have too often relegated infrastructures to an apolitical context or backdrop, as not worthy of attention, too hidden from view (physically and/or discursively), and/or as simply the purview of engineers or technocrats (Coutard, 1999).” As the site of everyday lived experience, infrastructure emerges as an ideal site for theorizing how multiple scales of social order play out in lived experience, and how relationships of translate into ‘palpable forms’ of physical and emotional harm (Rodgers 2012: 402). It is in this sense that I find the concept useful as a way of understanding the structure of Rio’s urban space, as a place in which neoliberal governance comes to bear violently through the segregation and management of urban space. As part of a patterned engineering of metropolitan topography (Rodgers 2012: 432), the present Olympic renovation of Rio de Janeiro is deeply connected with careful uses of de-politicized forms of violence.

Such a tactical use of development discourse, as constitutive of neoliberal government, must be seen as going beyond mere instrumentality, and as embedded within systemic and shifting structures of power. I turn to Foucault’s (2008[1979]) interpretation of as productive of particular rationalities, necessitating something beyond political doctrine and ideology. He suggests that present forms of government are being constituted through new “domains and methods” in ways that are no less “dense, frequent, active, and continuous than any other system of governmental rationality” (Oksala 2011:476). That is, they are technologies for governing which actively produce the market as the rational end of violence, and constitute a present and active force, rather than a ‘lack’ of government (as suggested by proponents of the idea of ‘anarcho-capitalism’). Under these conditions, the depoliticization of harm caused by the development projects of the Olympic Public Authority (APO) occurs as an objective of governmental rationality.

The adoption of the lens of a violence that is both infrastructural and neoliberal in character is intriguing in the case of Rio, in that it goes beyond the suggestion that infrastructure is merely a device momentarily utilized by a powerful elite. Rather, it enables us to imagine the ways in which it constitutes a systematic and pervasive form of power over urban space that conditions and disciplines subjects. In the infrastructural projects being put in place by the Programs for Growth Acceleration (PACs), forced evictions, privatization, and securitization comingle with state neglect to bring structural forms of harm to the poor. Development thus appears not only as a set of initiatives directed towards improving the quality of life of Brazil’s urban poor, but also sets the stage for privatization and marketization that rely precisely upon the relocation of the urban poor and the segregation of urban space.

Forms of structural violence are made invisible through the of development and modernity as projects of spatial and temporal scale-making. This language is deployed, in part, to portray the favela (temporally) as a space of failed modernity. Along these lines, the de-politicization of structural forms of violence in Rio de Janeiro is linked to the historic criminalization and abjection of the poor, and intimately entangled with racial stereotypes (Vargas 2012). Working in collusion with discourses of ‘racial democracy’ (Scheper-Hughes (1992), Twine (1998)), the marginalization of the subject positions of the poor occurs alongside their position as disproportionately black. As such, infrastructural violence is also compliant with structural forms of racism that have their roots in the slave trade and fazenda system. There is not, as in municipal discourses of favelas as abject spaces of squalor and misery, an underlying or pre-existing disposition towards suffering in the favelas that must be corrected. Instead, their marginalization is constituted historically in their ongoing reproduction as ‘backward’.

Invisible forms of violence in the favela are also articulated with, and overshadowed by, the overt violence of gang warfare and police militarization. Visible violence works alongside the invisible, as practices of management that are closely linked to discourse and class and race. These structures are seen to exist as much through gentrifying ‘improvements’ as they do in police brutality, forced evictions, and the creation of spaces inhospitable to anyone but foreign tourists and the wealthy.

Finally, as sites both of subjectivation and resistance, development discourses in Rio use the imagery of urban uplift and integration to court the favor not only of international capital, but of urban residents within the favelas. In this vein, Goldstein (2003) suggests that as ways of countering this everyday violence, Rio’s favela residents have become accustomed to using language that minimizes the risks of their situation discursively. However, this language leaves violence unchallenged in ways that depoliticize it, and enable its prolongation/continuation (Arias 2006; Scheper-Hughes 1992). Promises of improvements to communities thus come to be seen as the locus for garnering political favor among the associações de moradores.

Citizenship and the Criminalization of Race and Poverty

[F]avelas and cortiços are considered unclean and polluting…Excluded from the universe of the proper, they are symbolically constituted as spaces of , spaces of anomalous, polluting, and dangerous qualities. Predictably inhabitants of such spaces are also conceived of as marginal…Their behavior is condemned: they are said to use bad words, to be immoral, to consume drugs, and so on. In a way, anything that breaks the patterns of propriety can be associated with criminals, crime, and its spaces. - Teresa Caldeira, City of Walls (2000)

The rights of citizenship form a central locus for making claims to urban space, as well as a contested ideological ground. Claims to civil rights, and consequent civic participation, are delegitimated by discourses of criminality that construct moradores as undeserving of, and dangerous to, democratic processes. A crucial component in the containment of moradores’ rights as civic and public subjects thus occurs in their discursive production as criminals. The securitization of cities in preparation for such market-driven events, as the present ‘growth acceleration projects (PACs) demonstrate, also frequently fall along racial and class boundaries, reproducing the segregation of urban geography along these lines. Racialized understandings of favelas as loci of crime thus participate in the disenfranchisement of moradores during infrastructural processes that alter the spatial makeup of their neighborhoods, and place their legal rights in question.

The particular dimensions and problems of citizenship in contemporary Brazil are addressed by James Holston (1991, 2005), in his explication of the issues surrounding citizenship that are peculiar to Brazil’s situation following the dissolution of the dictatorship in the mid 80s. He suggests that citizenship must be treated as an important analytic category when addressing the lived experience of Brazilians, as the locus of a cultural politics through which they both make claims for rights, as well as the basis for the refusal of rights. Citizenship in Brazil, he argues, is a quite different category from that of the United States, wherein residents with citizenship are universally granted certain social services by the ‘welfare state’, while those without citizenship (such as undocumented workers and immigrants) are denied rights. In Brazil, in contrast, citizenship is broadly applied to the urban population, but simply carries it with it far fewer guarantees of legal rights and social services. The practical rights of citizenship are thus seen to be vastly heterogeneous, and correlated to race and class ideologies that are reproduced in public discourse.

The rise of citizenship as a locus for claims to urban space is a recent phenomenon in the history of urban Brazil. In his study of peripheral communities in Sao Paulo in the early 2000s, and the various means through which they sought legitimacy, Holston (2005) remarks on the rise of “an alternative public sphere of participation through which they engaged their needs in terms of rights – citizen rights that addressed their urban practices and constituted an agenda of citizenship…” (2008: 235). This changing role of the language of citizenship as recourse to legal entitlement, constitutes a claim of “rights to the city” (Harvey 2008) in which the residents of favelas and other ‘peripheral’ neighborhoods seek civic participation. The spatially uneven distribution of the rights of citizenship, especially in access to social services, Holston suggests, has much to do with broader political conditions in Brazil that disenfranchise the poor and make them increasingly vulnerable to conditions of material inequality. Here, a simple dichotomy of areas as governed (as in the Olympic spaces) or abandoned (as the poorest favelas) breaks down (Holston 2008). Instead, the legal and illegal form co-constitute one another, appearing as a dialectic.

The racialized criminalization of moradores is highly linked to their spatial location within favelas. Vargas (2006: 64) illustrates this as based in the ‘silent’ nature of the reproduction of racist stereotypes:

Signifying pollution and imminent threat that must be preemptively repressed, favelas and their people are often depicted as corrupt and subhuman. The powerful cognitive feedback loop that is established between urban space and race energizes the curious (because silent) perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes while functioning as a reliable dynamo that maintains social hierarchies in place and unquestioned.

As spaces constructed as symbolic of a secondary and corrupting nature, favelas are discursively formulated as abject to ‘civil society’, ‘formal markets’ and the ‘global’. They also, by naturalizing social hierarchies, serve to maintain the invisibility of racism in contemporary urban Brazilian society.

The racialized segregation of urban space, and of civic participation, thus frames citizenship as a central ground for the contestation of rights to the city. The nature of these discourses and practices as constantly reproduced, as opposed to natural or static ideologies, is foregrounded by Caldeira’s (2000:158) account of the administrative reinforcement of discursive linkages between crime, race, and . Reflecting on the 1990s in São Paulo, she writes, “If abuses have grown during the democratic period, they have done so because of administrative decisions and political options rather than because of an intractable pattern inherited from the past.” She notes that the issue of ‘civil rights’ is “not only the most delegitimated aspect of Brazilian citizenship but also an arena in which is openly resisted and discredited” (2000: 158).

Discourses of citizenship as the realm of rights to participation are prominent in activist accounts of forced removals and protests. For example, AM leaders in Vila Autódromo have articulated a desire to be “a part of the social legacy [of the Olympics],” and “respect from the City as Brazilian citizens” (Steiker-Ginsberg 2013). Claims to the legality of residence here also appear as central to a resident’s ability to make claims or protest the proceedings. If legal title to the land cannot be presented, the legitimacy of other rights of citizenship, such as the right “to seek justice” via the law, are also compromised.

Francisca de Pinha Melo, evicted from her home in Restinga in December 2010, criticizes an article in Carta Capital magazine where the Housing Secretary directly refers to her family as having been “given new jobs” following their removal. She counters, “That didn’t happen at all. We left with nothing. So that’s wrong. It’s outrageous for them to say that people are being relocated according to their rights; not true” (Witness 2012). Justice and rights are foregrounded in de Pinha Melo’s testimony, as claims to privileges in the context of eviction. Her language also suggests that, for some, forced removals are perceived less as a wholesale attack on the poor than as a moment in which the rights of citizenship are contested.

“A New Unit of the Neighborhood:” Modernism and Development

Studies of the impact of ‘globalization’ upon the urban poor in sociology, political science, and urban planning literature often suggest that the problem of unequal development lies in its politically undemocratic nature. These studies posit that equality might best be achieved by improving substantive participation of liberal subjects in markets as well as political institutions (Pirez 2002, Perlman 2010). Such prescriptions may very well serve to improve the participation of moradores in political decision-making apparati. However, such studies typically fail to take into account the linkage between material and discursive formation of urban spaces, and the imaginative modes through which the discipline of that space is exercised. Crucially, the imaginative construction of a linear telos of development paints a spatio-temporal portrait of modernity, producing life in the favela as backwards or ‘uncivilized’. I suggest that these modes of imagining the favela are essential to its reproduction as a space apart from the urban public, where its residents are viewed as undeserving of the rights of full citizens.

In this section, I examine the processes through which moradores are imaginatively excluded from modern urban space. I suggest that this production of invisibility is tied to the historical development of modernism and slum-upgrades in Rio de Janeiro. I argue that modernism, as a social production of spatio-temporal scale, attempts to make specific claims about civic participation and the legitimacy of Olympic infrastructural development.

The injection of space and spatiality into theories and practices of has been the endeavor of recent theorists of urban geography, most notably in the work of Henri Lefebvre (1991) and his interlocutors, including David Harvey (1985, 2005, 2008). Lefebvre argues for a ‘social production of space’ as dependent on dialectical relationships between multiple scales as urban, municipal, regional, or global. He writes, “No space disappears in the course of growth and development: the worldwide does not abolish the local” (1991: 86). Following Lefebvre (1991), Harvey suggests that in the ‘chronically unstable dialectics of space and place’ produced along trans-scalar lines of , we must endeavor towards a sort of ‘meaningful cosmopolitanism’24 which does not merely assume global citizenship, but rather is deeply integrated with geography and the specificity of space and spatial relations (2001:305).

Crucial to Lefebvre’s theory of space is the dialectic between its concrete and abstract forms. According to Lefebvre, “[S]ocial space embodies distinct and distinctive ‘traits’ that attach to the ‘pure’ mental form of space, without, however, achieving a separate existence as its external superadded content.” He continues, “Their analysis tells us what it is that confers a concrete (practical) existence upon space instead of leaving it confined within (mental) abstraction” (1991:292).

The ways in which space is produced in imagination are, in this view, co-constitutive with its material production. Such an approach is essential to understanding spatio-temporal scale in Rio de Janeiro as a product not only of ‘global’ processes but also of immanently local histories of civic segregation and inclusion. I attempt to perform this linkage by drawing attention to the friction between hegemonic spatial practices of modernist development and the widely marginalized opinions of the urban poor. At the same time, I call attention to evidence that modernity does not simply stand as an outside, oppressive force for moradores. Rather, it represents material and discursive desires that they themselves hold, as well as to which they are subjectivated. The notion of the favela as a space of ‘failed modernity’ is experienced not only in external stereotypes of the favela, but also by its residents who experience this failure as the frustration of a desire to become respected citizens.

A website from “Rio Prefeitura,” the municipal governing institution of the city of Rio De Janeiro, called Cidade Olímpica (Olympic City) features in-depth photographic, textual, and video representations of the Olympic construction projects. These include aerial views and time-lapses of transportation infrastructure, articles on the environmental benefits of improved drainage, and a section on the ‘social’ impacts of projects, featuring photos of construction on the new art museum in the massively renovated port zone. The site’s (2011) video feature on the construction projects called “Tomorrow and Forever” offers narratives by several individuals in powerful roles in the planning process, as well as historian Antonio Martins of University of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

Martins suggests to the viewer that Rio’s development projects are to be recognized as important steps in a modernization process that will be of economic benefit to a market-centric architecture of the city. He states, “With the exception of the Passos [1902-1906] remodeling work [Fig. 15], this is the first time we are having the opportunity in a long time to think about urban interventions from a more ample perspective. That period was the moment in which the city created a level of development which enabled it to enter into modernity.” He adds that “due to its unique characteristics and its history, one of the city’s trademarks has always been the idea of becoming a republican and cosmopolitan city, open to the world, and this will breathe new life into the carioca soul as its final legacy.” As a city that has ‘always’ idealized republicanism and forms globalized multiculturalism, Rio’s Olympic renovation is thus made to appear as nothing more or less than historical inevitability, and the logical end-result of a linear teleological modernization.

In the same video, Pedro da Luz, a city planning architect, offers his interpretation of Rio’s ‘revitalization’ of the port zone, which includes the removal of slums, addition of parks, a new art museum, street upgrades, plumbing improvements, and the construction of housing projects: “The idea is to transform this place into a new unit of the neighborhood; integrate it with Morro Pinto; integrate the new part with what exists…The big challenge is not city planning only for the slums, but also maintaining these areas integrated with the formal city.” The notion that favelas represent a reality abjected from the governed city, which must be integrated through capitalist development, represents one ideological schema for interpreting the massive transformation of these areas into private and secure venues for financial investment. By reimagining the very unit of the neighborhood, a restructuring that is not only material but deeply social is afoot.

Fig. 15: Rio during the Passos remodeling of 1902-1906

Massive demolitions took place, resulting in a wholesale reconstruction of the urban core (cidadolympic.com.br).

These triumphalist narratives, alongside the birth of Rio as a ‘Global City’ (Sassen 2005), mirror closely the observations of James Holston on the nexus of modernist aesthetics and the politics of development in Brasilia at the close of the dictatorship in the late 1980s.

While Brasilia represents, as Holston (1989) emphasizes, a case of distinct geographic, historical, and political circumstances of modernization, compelling parallels in the imagery and material structuring of modernity qua urban planning appear. In particular I want to point to the “purposeful and elite-oriented” modernization shaped by the likes of Baron Haussmann in the mid-19th century renovation of Paris, and Le Corbusier’s Congrès international d'architecture moderne (CIAM) of the early to mid twentieth century (Rodgers 2012:414). Brazilian architects expressed a great interest in reproducing the ideals of Le Corbusier’s CIAM, as Holston (1989) notes, in the construction of contemporary Brasilia from 1957-1989, in which Le Corbusier personally participated.

Fig. 16: “An Avenue is Born,” c. 2012

Cesar Barreto Gallery. The Binario expressway will be 40km long and link the center of the city to the bridge leading to Niterói, a nearby municipality (cidadeolympica.com.br 2012).

The modernist production of space in Brasilia, and Le Corbusier’s techniques, were largely based in Baron Haussmann’s now infamous renovation of Paris from 1853-1870. This process involved massive demolitions to make way for new highways, drainage, and commercial avenues. Andrew Merrifield (2002: 146) suggests that this transformation took place through a symbiotic “combination of finance and rentier capital in cahoots with Baron Haussmann . . . who sought to orchestrate the private and the public spaces of Paris in mutually supportive ways.”

Much of Haussmann’s project consisted of converting old, medieval streets into broad, tarmacked avenues that would ultimately reorganize not only the appearance of the city, but also the spatial segregation of the classes. This transformation was ostensibly to “facilitate the ever-increasing flow of traffic in the city,” however it is interesting to note that Haussmann (2000: 174) himself wrote in his memoirs that the underlying logic for the straight boulevards was first and foremost “security,” and only afterwards “circulation” (in Rodgers 2012:420).

A central ideal of Haussmannization involved a form of visual eviction of the poor from the scene of the civic public. For Frederick Engels, Haussmannization was performed as a ‘breach’ in the spaces of working class dwellings, putatively for the purposes of ‘beautifying’, improving business, or ‘traffic requirements’. However, “[n]o matter how different the reasons may be, the result is everywhere the same: the scandalous alleys and lanes disappear to the accompaniment of lavish self-praise from the bourgeoisie on account of this tremendous success, but they appear again immediately somewhere else and often in the immediate neighborhood” (Engels 1935: 74-75). For Engels, the invisibilization of poverty thus worked to banish the urban poor to neighborhoods further from the bourgeois gaze. T.J. Clark, remarking on Degas’s painting “Place de la Concorde,” also suggests an image of new ideal partitioning of urban space based on correcting the intolerable visibility of the poor:

…[T]he typical scene – this the new painting certainly suggested – was likely to be one in which the classes coexisted but did not touch; where each was absorbed in a kind of dream, cryptic, turned in on itself or out to some spectacle, giving off equivocal signs…Class exists, but Haussmann’s spaces allow it to be overlooked… History exists, but Haussmann’s spaces have room for it to be hidden… (Clark 1984:73,75; qtd. in Caldeira 2000)

The question of visibility is here foregrounded as an important function of the modernist urban space, containing the poor so as to make them invisible to the wealthy, while leaving open the possibility of securitization and surveillance.

Many of Haussmann’s modernist ideals of security and integration appear in today’s infrastructural projects managed by the APO and municipal government (see Fig. 16). For example, the division of space along class boundaries appears as a principal function in infrastructural developments that make claims to ‘integration’. The massive Programs for Growth Acceleration (PACs), at a project cost of R$1.59 trillion (US$965 billion) from 2007-2014 (Brasil.gov.br) are allegedly intended to improve, among many projects, sanitation, transportation infrastructure including paving and bus/light rail, construction of police stations, schools, shipbuilding, port facilities, and natural gas/oil investment. Language employed in municipal publicity for the PACs is highly positive and egalitarian, include ‘stimulating the construction industry,’ ‘prevention in risky areas,’ ‘generating jobs and income,’ ‘presence of the state in poorer districts’ and ‘reducing the housing deficit’.

Against the modernist vision of an integrated city publically distributed by city planners, stand the competing narratives of residents who maintain that, much as in Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, economic benefits of development appear geared towards the creation of ever-more hospitable environments for capital. The role of the urban spaces of Morro da Providência and numerous other neighborhoods appear as the contested ground of a cultural politics of community and spatio-temporal scale-making processes. Here, residents fight against the notion of their community as ‘backward’, at the same time that they make demands for provisions of the rights of citizenship.

The ideal of total restructuring of a city, including the modernist aesthetic of wide avenues linking its neighborhoods and, ostensibly, of the integration of the city, are seen in today’s statements on the “Olympic City” municipal website:

While in the early twentieth century the refurbishments affected basically the downtown area, this time Rio will be impacted as a whole. This is the inheritance we call the Olympic Legacy, which, after 2016, will be seen and felt in various sites […] The slums, a century-old Rio malady, are part of the city and should be treated as such, turned into neighborhoods, with public services and incentives for development […] Expressways will connect different parts of the city, affording it its greatest urban integration in its history (Rio Prefeitura 2013).

These discourses of integration foreground the appearance of the slums as a form of urban blight, and a kind of pestilence to be corrected through infrastructural development and integration with more civilized neighborhoods. The idea of the modern ‘neighborhood’ appears as more advanced than the ‘backwards’ and abject spaces typical of today’s favelas. We are here faced with a central paradox of neoliberal development ideology: only after the poor have developed economically (ceasing to be poor!) will they be deserving of recognition as a neighborhood with full rights to civic participation.

A contradictory movement emerges, in which the favela is both hidden from view, and recast as an exotic locale, offered up to the gaze of the tourist and fetishized by their camera lens. This movement represents a departure from the strict process of invisibilization favored by Haussmann’s modernization, and complicates the politics of recognition for Rio’s urban poor. As simultaneously a commodity, and the abject space of waste, the favela comes to occupy contradictory territory, a territory made possible through the power of development discourses to produce and manage urban space.

The importance of language to the creation of massive development projects is seen in articulations of nationalist and international finance capital-oriented goals of the Olympic games and World Cup. This language is central in the creation of urban renovation projects that promote, in their very conception, asymmetrical benefits based on an economistic reading of good, as well as a ‘politics of connectivity’ (Amin, 2004: 40). Contested discourses of connectivity are foregrounded by the Olympic City municipal website’s portrayal of its technological innovations in the favelas. The site touts the civic value of Olympic infrastructural projects, in particular an aerial tram being built in Spring 2013 in Morro da Providência. They refer to it as a “Tramway of Good” (bonde do bem) in its capacity to create linkages that will draw tourists, and, ostensibly, enhance the lives of its residences.

Arturo Escobar’s understanding of development as an epistemological production is here helpful, as a way of understanding discourse as constitutive of processes of urban reconstruction. He suggests that development as a discourse functions towards the “systemic creation of objects, concepts, and strategies” in such a ways that determines what may be thought or said (Escobar1995: 41). Thus, he understands language not as an isolated process, but rather deeply embedded in systematic and material structures of normativity. In this view, the use of development discourse cannot be explained as mere deception or euphemism on the part of the municipal government. It is instead part of constitutive structures that determine what can be said and thought under particular historical dimensions.

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“Not all silences are equal,” writes Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1997, p.27). Not everyone, I add, possesses the power to silence a person or a group of people. In this research paper, I use gender as an analytical tool to examine the way... Read Article »
2008, Vol. 5 No. 1
Published by Discussions
Stature estimation is traditionally an important consideration in physical anthropology and archaeology and is especially pertinent in the realm of forensics. The most widely used resource for estimating living stature from the length of long bones... Read Article »
2013, Vol. 5 No. 10
Large-scale rural to urban migrations have been occurring in India in record numbers within the last thirty years, inflating the populations of urban centers, such as Delhi and Mumbai. Within these streams of migrations, the number of youth leaving... Read Article »

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