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Protest literacies: texts and practices contesting military policing and mega-events in Rio de Janeiro

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Unpublished
  • James Duncan
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Publication date2019
Number of pages472
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

During the mid to late 2000s, a period of contentious politics emerged in the city of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) concerning social movement responses to so-called ‘mega-events’ due to be hosted there – e.g. the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Central to contentions were newly implemented policing and housing policies associated with preparations for these mega-events: firstly installation of policing in favelas and secondly an extensive programme of evictions and displacements referred to in short as ‘pacification’ and ‘removals’ respectively. In my thesis, I chart the development of local social movements’ responses to these mega-events, focussing especially on one area of favelas named Maré in the North Zone periphery of Rio. I describe these developing contestations over a period of ten years from around 2006-2016 which I frame in terms of an extended episode or cycle of contention and protesting about a specific set of themes – most prominent to which is a series of deaths of favela residents killed during military police operations in favelas. Based on one year of fieldwork in Rio over 2013-2014 and archival research thereafter, the empirical focus of the study is on protest events (e.g. demonstrations and protest marches), the themes that were contested through these, how such events connected over time, and the social uses of literacy and related communication technologies in their mobilization, performance, and dissemination.
Firstly, from a synchronic perspective, the findings show five sets of literacy practices which were central to protest events and social movement activities: campaigning literacies, memorial literacies, media-activist literacies, arts-activist literacies, and demonstration literacies. Seen as interconnecting and taken together, these were the principle literacies of social protest, or protest literacies. Secondly, from a diachronic perspective, I highlight multiple examples of meaning making trajectories that interlinked ongoing protest events from 2006-2016. The two main examples were realised through flows of recontextualized and resemiotized texts and practices, referred to as symbolization trajectories and memorialization trajectories. Lastly, I show how traditional protesting texts and practices locally were becoming reshaped by the uptake of new communications technologies (websites, blogs, SNS, etc.), which had started to become used by social movements during the period in discussion (from around 2006 onward). In this changing social-political setting and changing communications-technological environment, new roles and usages for texts emerged. These allowed for the amplification of local voices on national and global scales – especially so, over 2013-2014, the year of my fieldwork and also the period of the largest and most sustained protesting in Rio and Brazil for thirty years.
Theoretically, my thesis draws on and contributes toward ethnographic and historical traditions in the New Literacy Studies, whilst combining this research lens with work from Discourse Studies, Social Movement Studies, and Cultural Anthropology, amongst others. Data and findings contribute to both local and global academic and activist work on the issues addressed, from the impacts of global mega-events upon local communities, to the increasing militarization of public spaces and social life, as well as social movements’ contestations of these and other issues, through traditional and changing means of protest.