FAVELAS The Hidden City
These images compare the mapping of the two cities, Barcelona and Rocinha.
A Favela with around 40,000 to 70,000 living there.
Concepts of the modern utopian city often play out the same with the size, density, and environment all being considered in order for the urban and rural aspects of culture to work together. However this brings to mind images of highly advanced cities like Manhattan or Hong Kong. And their race towards the sky ‘a race ultimately won by the Empire State building on its completion in 1930. Skyscrapers were seen as heroic not only because of their breathtaking height. The entire process of building them was regarded with fascination and awe, while speculation abounded regarding how high these buildings might eventually go’ (Stevenson, D. pp 2 2003). Yet some of the most thriving cities in the world do not seek the awe of skyscrapers or need to consider the where to place shopping malls in order for the city map to best suit tourists. These cities are devoid of structure, government, and permits they use only what they need and are fully self sustaining and many consider them to be third world cities. Favelas are to many a slum without order and rife with gangs yet they are becoming
increasingly popular with both tourists and sociologists. The idea of a community built up with no central governing body has fascinated many and been romanticized by some, however there are many different aspect and ideas that need to be considered when discussing Favelas.
One of the most basic premises when designing a city is to have some form of order that can be put into a map so that people can find there way around. For example Barcelona a city that has clearly been designed in order for the maximum ease when using the city is played out like this Illas discus Barcelona’s reformation writing ‘the renewal has been described as a unique and successful project that can represent a model for other cities’(Illas, E. pp 133 2012). It’s clear that the reformation of Barcelona has worked the streets are all or mostly in an easy to understand order and Illas goes on to write that ‘The general admiration that it has received in the last 20 years has generated considerable bibliography in urban and architectural studies.’(Illas, E. pp 133 2012). And when compared with Brazil’s biggest Favelas Rocinha it is clear to see that there is very little structure nothing compared to Barcelona’s perfectly designed city structure. However the identity of a city is not defined by its ability to fit on to a map, Barcelona although it may be partially know for its easy to navigate streets they have not come to define the place itself. The concept of place is odd as it does not have a definition Sepe
writes ‘Places are the element of the existential place and constitute the primary unit. Bernie (1999) acknowledges the coexistence of two aspects in place, one quantitative and the other qualitative, which complement each other.’(Sepe, F. pp 3 2006). What this quote describes it that a place may be defined as a combination of the numerical data as well as the thoughts and opinions of the people in the place. And yet one can not define a place without the other. The thoughts and opinions of the people of Rocinha or any Favelas can be seen through the culture and sub cultures of their communities. Possibly the most prevalent cultural difference seen from country to country is language, sociologist Patel writes ‘Language represents the culture of a society and the practices and attitudes that give it texture.’ (Patel, G. 2015) In the case of Favelas their language has moulded around the environment and the society that lives there. Originally they spoke Portuguese the main language of Brazil however, now it has been developed due to characteristics of each specific community. The dialect changes in each Favelas in slight amounts for example, if a Favelas culture is more distant in wealth, diversity, or population then they might use different words or different nuance in dialect. Page 3
Patel goes on in his article to discus this giving a reason for it ‘Language is exploited as yet another way of creating distance between the elite and the poor, contributing to a long history of exclusion and stigmatization of these communities.’ (Patel, G. 2015) Patel also touches on Favelas cultural distance from Brazil despite in some cases there geographical distance being very little. This wanting for the distancing of Brazil and its culture is one of the main reasons for Favelas attitude to words the outside world especially Brazil. An example of language being used to meet the social practices of the Favelas in the word “Police” or “polícia” in Portuguese, however in certain Favelas the word takes on a different spelling and pronunciation Patel writes ‘Pila’ and ‘pompeu’ are just two examples of words used in the community of Acarí meaning ‘police’(Patel, G. 2015). This type of language reformation if just one example of Favelas cultural distance from there original local despite and there development into being there own city with its own sub cultures and ideas. Another example of where the cultural status quo has influenced the dialect of Favelas is in the more violent Favelas where police are
often bribed or the policing is done by gang members. The degree of violent crime punishment by none elected gang members has caused for the word “Police” or “polícia” to be combined with word “Bandit” or “Bandido”. This word “polícia-bandido” refers to gang members who are there to impose justice, however it also reaches out to a higher level of state as well with the term also leading itself to members of government who are corrupt. The many differences in language have lead to many musician exploring this through song one such artist Padeirinho who composition A ‘linguagem do morro’, translating to Language of the favela. The song itself goes into detail on several nuance difference in the language of Favelas. Music plays a large in the life of Favelas with many genres like Samba, Hip Hop, and Funk Carioca. Page 4
The stigma Favelas face from the outside world in particular the Brazilian upper and middle class has caused great social divide. Many things are not the same in Rio De Janeiro as they are in Rocinha this has caused the culture to spilt like the language. An example of this culture remodel is in the music Pogaceanu describes musics influence on society writing ‘Music is inescapably biological and profoundly cultural. Music is functional in human development’(Pogaceanu, L. pp 874 2014). Pogaceanu explains that music has to develop in a society regardless of where or who is in this society and there are many examples of this to back up his statement. Like many other community Favelas have there own style of music based around the social struggles of the people London has Grime, Jamaica has Reggie, and Favelas have Funk Carioca. Funk Carioca is a dialect of music that expression the day to day life in a Favela in a similar way the American west coast rap did with artists like N.W.A.. There lyrics commonly are influenced by gang culture, the day to day struggle, and the stereotypes put on them by society . With all these things consider it is easy to understand how some groups see this type of music as being an endorsement of crime as Patel points out ‘Instead of being understood as a natural and inevitable expression of this reality, funk music is often judged as an endorsement of criminality.’(Patel, G. 2015). Yet all forms of music have opposition especially when the topics are as controversial as the ones seen in Funk Carioca.
Yet this form of cultural expression has gone on to influence artist outside of Favelas. Artists such as Diplo and M.I.A both take a large amount of influence for the Funk Carioca of the mid 1980s. However endorsements of criminality in Favelas music may be leading to more crime. Cultural arbitrary is the theory that human behaviour is a product of the culture we intake, so the consequence of expressing social struggle into music then is heard by others would begin to make the audience products of the structure sung about. Zubrzycki and Smilde discuss the topic of cultural arbitrary writing ‘concepts of culture based on an arbitrary relationship between signifier and signified do not seem to capture the actual engagement of culture in life, in which people formulate and and use culture to address the challenges they face in the world’(Zubrzycki, G Smilde, D. pp 196 2016).
Using this theory people would formulate an idea of how to face challenges that are faced in Favelas, by pulling from the cultural influence of Funk Carioca a type of music which many consider endorses criminality. Whilst Funk Carioca play an important part of Favelas culture being that it is the largest cultural influence on the outside world it doesn’t play a large role in the day to day goings on in some Favelas although live music does. There are a multitude of reasons for the abundance of live music in Favelas, there are no laws about noise pollution nor do artist need licences to play music in public places. This combined with Favelas isolation from mainstream cities due to the cost of transport has cause for there to be many pop-up gigs and live music events. These live music event have become such a core part of the day to day life that Community reporting on Rio compared ‘Finding silence in a favela is like trying to stay dry during the monsoon’ (Bonnisseau, N. 2014). These cultural texts define Favelas and have a large impact on the urban culture and environment. So much so that many groups and charity have been formed under the idea that through musical influence the dark side of Favelas can be stamped out, one such group is Grupo Cultural AfroReggae. Lead by Anderson Sá a former drug trafficker the group is almost epitome of the contrasting world Favelas on one hand theres the cultural incubator which is not restricted by governing bodies but then there is the dark side that can grow due to this lack in government.
Another aspect of culture that is synonymous with Brazil is dance. With many famous festivals taking place in Rio such as the “Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro” being the most famous. Consequently Rio’s favelas also have serval dances which they are know for The dance being Passinho. A blend of pop, funk, and breakdancing the dance has its roots in still like Samba Frevo. Although the dance itself was originally associated with gangs as NBC News points out ‘The passinho has gained massive popularity and spread rapidly beyond the walls of the favelas, shattering negative stereotypes.’ (Deeb, N. 2015). This ability for a Favela to shed its negative shell is often very rare, the dance itself took over Brazil and gained millions over views online. According to a BBC article the dance itself gained the attention ‘of stars like Beyonce.’ (N/A. 2016). This uniquely Favelan dance is an example of the many cultural way in which Favelas all around Brazil influence the modern society of the world.
The creation of a coherent study on Brazils Favelas would be extremely bias if the association between gang culture and the favela was not discussed. The very thing that allows a Favela to become an incubation for a one of a kind culture also allows gangs to thrive. Due to the lack in organised government and general structure in Favelas they have become a ‘highly complex hierarchical structures which involve intricate negotiations of power between a multiplicity of civic, state and criminal actors.’(Bagnall, D. pp 413 2015) These complex systems have lead to many theoretical and political debates over what is best for Favelas, yet many scholars still are not in accordance with one another. However one feature of Favela life is that generally agreed upon is that gang culture is not hidden, it is clearly visible and often happens in public space. Yet this raises the question of why it has not be eradicated, this is due to what Rodrigues and Arias describe as ‘myth of personal security’(Arias, E Rodrigues, C. pp 54 2006). The theory considers many factors in including the social fear of gangs in favelas, the maintains of order, and the resolution of disputes. The social fear aspect is arguable the most explicit as many of the communities main source of infrastructure is based around gang activity, and those who do not work for gangs are to afraid to come forward with information for fear of there lives. The second aspect is the maintenance of order, this is often due to a misinformed community not wanting to impose more violence on there Favela from police and gang altercations. This fear is warranted statics show ‘murder rates in excess of 40 percent’(Arias, E Rodrigues, C. pp 53
53 2006) however these rates are dramatically decreased once gang levels are lowed. Specking on maintenance of order Rodrigues and Arias write ‘Traffickers do not enforce such rules uniformly. Instead, as shown by evidence from the favelas in this study, by skilfully providing for dispute resolution and maintaining local order with an eye to their political, social, and emotional relationships with residents’(Arias, E Rodrigues, C. pp 54 2006). By providing there community with just enough structure to keep order they effectively lock the community into a stalemate, leaving the public not wanting to change the status quo. Thirdly there is the resolution of disputes, due to the nature of Favelas and how these cities are more often than not built on a illegitimate foundation allowing police intervention is extremely problematic. Not only due to large scale criminal gangs but also due to the national heath and safety laws for businesses and housing which are broken by civilians. Goldstein writes ‘Gangs provide an alternative justice system, among the poorest, who thoroughly reject a corrupt police force and, in their everyday lives, seek some organised entity that can administer “justice” in the local arena’(Bagnall, D. pp 414 2015). By seeking justice from gangs instead of the police force in fear of corruption it becomes a case of signifier and signified like previously mentioned with the effect of music on day to day life. The cultural stigma that the population of Favelas have toward police then will formulate into a stereotype to all law enforcement there by creating a predetermined imagine of how to act towards government authority.
ROCINHA AT NIGHT Goldstein’s model of Favelas interprets gangs as being almost separate states to one another with each gang having control over particular Favelas. However all the separate gang states are almost entirely separate from the official Brazilian states. And this has become a large part of forming the space that is Favelas. By distancing themselves from the official states of Brazil and choosing to use unofficial justice system as well as relying upon gangs to provide infrastructure it has caused for a vastly different culture and environment. Bagnall discusses this writing ‘With the retrenchment of the official state, which Goldstein holds is due to obscene levels of police corruption and brutality, the local gangs step in to perform all the functions of the absent state; gangs “provide badly needed services – for example, housing and cash in times of emergency – as well as a form of employment for youths” alongside their internal security and crime control functions’ (Bagnall, D. pp 414 2015). By imposing a ruling to that not of official government the Favelas have created a totally unique Psychogeography different to that of a poor slum but also different to a city. The geographical environment of Favelas has a large impact on the Psychogeography and gangs of Favelas. Favelas are often set on hills which effects the limitation of how much they can build, furthermore more often than not Favelas are restricted to natural limits. Bagnall writes ‘often a near exact mapping of the anthropological onto the natural; that is, the territory of a particular gang is dictated by natural landscape’(Bagnall, D. pp 413 2015) . This impact on territory works in a similar way that counties work, although not truly being vastly different in cultures there are aspects of each section which is different. For example one gang may have a more strict justice system making a more feared but safer area, whereas another may lack in justice system but hold more political sway over the general population. The most apparent difference however being that different gangs will control each anthropological section. Page 8
One thing that Goldstein’s model does not consider is the effect of state influence on gangs which helps gangs thrive however Arias’s model considers the gang culture and legal culture work have much more synergy than people think. Bagnall writes ‘Under Arias’s model, the supposed separation between police and gang is a fabrication upheld by both parties’(Bagnall, D. pp 416 2015). Arias’ suggests that there is very little difference between the police, government, and gangs and that each is just trying to run there area in the most efficient and beneficial way for the people who live there. Furthermore the ideas which Arias’ presents are not proven by taking any statices but evidenced by the Favelas and there ability to thrive. These two theories combined can begin to build up a picture of how the convolution of criminality in the Favelas has moulded a model of cities which do not fit into many modern ideas of space or environment. Favelas are truly a unique space to the world, no where else does an environment like a Favela have the ability to thrive and create its own culture. Favelas such as Rocinha, Vidigal, and Cidade de Deus all have built up a community which is separate to the main city and government of Brazil. Proving that communities built with very little money and access to modern amenities can grow into developed cities with business, schools, and entertainment. However the question of wether a Favelan society works within the global societies of the 21st century is another question. The same aspects that allowed for Favelas to become such massive cities in such a small amount of time has also allowed for the creation of massive gangs and communities controlled by gang law. A system which is not designed to protect citizens but the gangs and the powerful . Yet the Brazilian government is faced with a paradoxical question do they leave Favelas in peace for the prevision of life or do they try to stamp out crime and gangs and take control of what truly make Favelas a unique culture at the expense of both civilian life and gang life.
Bibliography Arias, E Rodrigues, C. (2006) ‘The Myth of Personal Security: Criminal Gangs, Dispute Resolution, and Identity in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas’. Latin American Politics and Society, 48 (4), pp 53-82. Bagnall, D. (2015) ‘The dynamics of favela justice; identity, legitimacy and legality’. Journal of Financial Crime, 22 (4), pp 412-422. Bonnisseau, N. (2014) Why Are Favelas Cultural Incubators?. [Internet] Available from http://www.rioonwatch.org/?p=17149 Accessed on 2/2/18. Deeb, N. (2015) From The Favelas: This Brazilian Dance Team is Bringing The Funk. [Internet] Available from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/streets-rio-nyc-brazilian-dance-team-n429991 Accessed on 2/2/18. Illas, E. (2012) Thinking Barcelona: Ideologies of a Global City. Liverpool, Liverpool University press. Patel, G. (2015) The Language of the Favela Part 1: Resistance, Culture and Identity. [Internet] Available from http://www.rioonwatch.org/?p=19921 Accessed on 2/2/18. Pogaceanu, L. (2014) ‘Relationships of gender, music, and society’. Journal of Research in Gender Studies, 4 (2), pp 872-878. Stevenson, D. (2003) Cities and urban cultures. Maidenhead, Open University Press. Zubrzycki, G Smilde, D. (2016) ‘The Sources of Cultural Power: Beyond the Cultural Arbitrary’ Qualitative Sociology, 39 (2), pp 195-199. N/A. (2016) Brazilian dance craze sweeps through Rio’s favelas. [Internet] Available from http://www.bbc. co.uk/news/av/world-latin-america-37108116/brazilian-dance-craze-sweeps-through-rio-s-favelas Accessed on 2/2/18.
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