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> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-rev...@lists.h-net.org>
> Date: February 9, 2020 at 3:55:48 PM EST
> To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revh...@mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Socialisms]:  Scott on Bezerra, 'Postcards from Rio: 
> Favelas and the Contested Geographies of Citizenship'
> Reply-To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> Kátia da Costa Bezerra.  Postcards from Rio: Favelas and the 
> Contested Geographies of Citizenship.  New York  Fordham University 
> Press, 2017.  176 pp.  $28.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8232-7655-4.
> Reviewed by Jason Scott (University of Colorado)
> Published on H-Socialisms (February, 2020)
> Commissioned by Gary Roth
> Citizenship in Rio's Favelas
> Kátia da Coasta Bezerra's _Postcards from Rio: Favelas and the 
> Contested Geographies of Citizenship _offers a highly insightful look 
> into the aesthetic commodification of Brazil's urban margins. Bezerra 
> sets out to challenge problematic narratives that "other" the favela 
> and frame Rio's less privileged communities in terms of abstract 
> violence. The book's strongest feature is a comprehensive description 
> of the Rio de Janeiro's nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), 
> specifically Viva Rio and its community partners, that have helped to 
> nurture a generation of notable favela-based cultural producers and 
> activists who emerged at the start of the twenty-first century. By 
> exploring and detailing the perspectives of favela-based groups, the 
> author suggests alternative ways to conceptualize a divided city.   
> Bezerra's broader argument suggests that the dominant visual 
> narratives concerning Rio promoted a commodification of the favela in 
> the years prior to Rio's hosting of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 
> Olympics. During this time, authorities sought to promote an image of 
> inclusion, formality, and security. The inclusion of the favelas in 
> official proclamations and discussions had both positive and negative 
> impacts. On the positive side, there was a concerted effort to fund 
> favela-based organizations that provided services in traditionally 
> underdeveloped communities. For example, many of Bezerra's 
> interlocutors were photographers and educators who work in the favela 
> and are connected to Viva Rio, one of Rio's most important NGOs. But 
> there were also, as Bezerra references throughout the book, forced 
> removals and poorly intentioned projects that catered to tourists 
> rather than favela residents. 
> _Postcards from Rio_ provides a snapshot of a unique historical 
> moment for Brazil during which neoliberal deregulation and 
> deinstitutionalization butted heads with policies designed by the 
> country's social democratic workers party. The development of 
> infrastructure in the favela was guided by a nebulous relationship 
> between NGOs, the Brazilian state, and favela residents. This unique 
> social hierarchy is reflected in the ways that knowledge and beliefs 
> are created about favela space. Imagery of the favela created during 
> this time reflected the everyday experience of favela residents and 
> also the intentions and desires of a state intent on reshaping 
> marginalized citizenship in twenty-first-century Brazil. Contributing 
> to a broader theoretical tradition concerning Brazil's favelas, 
> Bezerra argues that the multiplicity of gazes (e.g., governmental, 
> NGO, and residential) symbolized a contradiction within Rio's urban 
> spaces. 
> The organization of the book follows the tradition of favela research 
> most notably implemented by Janice Perlman in her 1973 work, _The 
> Myth of Marginality_, where community examples are used to develop a 
> broader picture of marginality. The first and second chapters look at 
> collaborations between NGOs and community journalists who confront 
> Foucauldian heterotopias, or communities where everything is 
> perceived in negative terms. Bezerra contrasts heterotopic narratives 
> of violence and political disfunction in the favela that are 
> historically mobilized by Brazil's elite with narratives of 
> creativity and hope currently used by community activists. In this 
> sense, favela-based groups create dialogical visual narratives that 
> defy dominant hegemonies of seeing and assert an alternative gaze. 
> Chapter 3 compares representations produced at two separate moments 
> in Rio's urban development: the removal of favela residents in the 
> 1950s and favela improvement programs in the late 2000s. The fourth 
> chapter looks at the politics of representation that surround 
> favela-based cable car systems. Cable cars redefined both spatial and 
> aesthetic experiences within the favela. The final chapter examines 
> how Rio is being redefined by its newest museums. In general, Bezerra 
> structures the book in a way that shows the fluidity of urban space 
> and the multiplicity of experiences that constitute urban governance 
> in modern Brazil. 
> While _Postcards from Rio_ grounds itself in several interesting case 
> studies, the book can be best read as a theoretical contemplation on 
> the nature of visual authority in a time of multifocal image 
> production and urban inequality. Nonetheless, greater ethnographic 
> reference to the everyday lived experiences of creating, promoting, 
> and consuming images would have strengthened the book. The author's 
> own scholarly training tends to overwhelm the intentions and 
> explanations of the book's interviewees, and it is sometimes unclear 
> as to whether the author is presenting their own critique of visual 
> production, reproducing the critiques of favela activists, or 
> embracing the work of Brazilian scholars who focus on visual 
> production in the favelas. One example of this is the discussion of 
> the Museum of Art in Rio, where the author provides promotional 
> material and discusses the museum's hours of operation. This 
> information is useful when framed as a regimentation of museum space, 
> but it does little to advance the author's central arguments 
> regarding commodification or demonstrate a form of critical 
> empiricism regarding knowledge production in the favela. 
> _Postcards from Rio_ will be useful for anyone interested in the rise 
> of NGOs during a period of optimism regarding the future of Brazil 
> and its favelas. With the 2018 election of archconservative and 
> authoritarian populist Jair Bolsonaro to Brazil's presidency, the 
> inclusionary political period of Bezerra's research appears to have 
> passed. Bezerra's work is somewhat ambiguous as to how outside 
> academics and NGOs can continue to support favela residents as 
> knowledge producers once political conditions cease to include a 
> multiplicity of voices. This ambiguity is indicative of much of the 
> humanistic and social scientific research published about Brazil's 
> urban periphery during this period, and Bezerra's work provides an 
> opportunity to reflect upon possible means and methods of including 
> marginalized voices. The opportunity to delve into the work of 
> community-based visual producers remains a valuable and productive 
> means to challenge some of the more exclusionary elements of life on 
> Rio's periphery. 
> Citation: Jason Scott. Review of Bezerra, Kátia da Costa, 
> _Postcards from Rio: Favelas and the Contested Geographies of 
> Citizenship_. H-Socialisms, H-Net Reviews. February, 2020.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54283
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.
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