Archive for December, 2010

In Rio de Janeiro the favelas are famous for funk and feared for the drugs wars. The latter plays an important role in the local political life of the favela residents, which is dominated by the drugs traffickers as they take responsibility for internal mediator, judge, jury and punisher of perceived crimes1. In fact, residents feel more secure by the “criminal protector’s” violence rather than by the violence exercised by the police, which are their legitimate protectors2. Arguably, the drugs lords fulfil an important role in the maintenance of order and a feeling of security in the community.

The BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion), is a special forces unit of the Military Police of the State government of Rio de Janeiro and operates in order to “establish order” in these communities. As remnant of the military dictatorship they have not yet made the transition from protecting the state to protecting the citizens. In fact, they still treat the latter as the enemy3 and in turn the citizens see them as their enemy, a feeling that is enforced by the “drugs elite” who projects the state police as the favela’s major threat.

Recently, the Pacification Police Unity (UPP) – a unity of specially trained policemen by the state government – is brought into being in order to reclaim the territories that are occupied by the drugs gangs and to “organise” the favelas by decreasing criminal activities, making an end to drugs trade and improving security, including the democratisation of access to basic services and facilities. Taking into account the existing relation between the state, the drugs traffickers and the favela residents, this leads to the question whether the state is able to take responsibility to provide security and deliver basic social services More specifically, this paper tends to answer the following question:

How does the transition from a non-state authority (drugs lords) to a state authority (the Pacifying Police Unit) in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas changes the community’s perception of security and the authority’s legitimacy?

In the first section I will discuss the relevant theoretical context to this question introducing concepts of security, service delivery and legitimacy. In the second section I will discuss the drugs lords as ruling actors in the favela and subsequently the UPP as a state-actor that has substituted the former and takes over responsibility for security and order. In the third section I will dispute the UPP’s capacity to provide security and its legitimacy as an authority. Following, in the fifth section I will introduce the debate on conflict sensitivity and discuss the adequacy of the UPP program.

Download full paper.

To elaborate on the previous post by Fei An, I would like to quote a paragraph of the Blank Noise blog which describes their new project Y ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME.

After a brief introduction of everyone present, the meeting proceeded with a brief discussion on eve teasing and the intervention that will take place. ‘Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME’ is an intervention where a group of women wears a giant letter made of red reflective tape on their shirts. They then stand idly on the streets or zebra cross, staring at the vehicles and passers-by without a word. Together, the letters on their shirts form the sentence ‘Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME’, demanding attention by asking a silent question. When the traffic light flashed to green, these women will disappear to the sidewalks. A group of male volunteers are already there, distributing pamphlets and engaging passers-by about in a conversation about what they just saw and relate it to eve teasing. The idea behind this intervention is an act a female gaze to reverse the male gaze that often times could be considered as a form of eve teasing. Because it is so unusual, onlookers often look away or feel embarrassed after an encounter with the female gaze. Despite being done without a word, the twist of gender dynamics in this intervention provoked the interest of people in the sidewalk and opened up the space for public dialogue – the aim Blank Noise strives to achieve.” (Maesly Angelina on


This is very interesting. The main aim is not to create awareness and to change the men’s behaviour, which is of course very complicated to achieve, but to empower women in a way that makes them no longer feel victims of sexual harassment. They open up a space in which women can discuss these issues, which, I think, is the beginning of a strong emancipatory movement.

Particularly interesting I find the power shift Fei An briefly mentioned in the previous post. As soon as a women holds a camera she becomes the powerful, as she can register the perpetrater — who, at his turn, totally panics when he realises what happend. “I have a wife, please don’t do this to me”, he begged. Even though she might not do anything with this picture (I don’t believe this is Blank Noise’s aim), at that very moment she controlled the situation. Questions whether this will have any effect on the long term, or whether this will eventually establish some kind of societal/cultural change I consider not that relevant. In this case we should recognise the valeu of the process rather than the product. What does this mean for the particular women and how does it help them at that very moment?

Please read the entire blog.

Date: 08-12
Organization: Hivos

On December 8th, both Ellen and I went to the last session of the Hivos Digital Natives with a Cause Thinkathon in The Hague. On arrival we were welcomed in an artistic environment where post-its were connected by ribbons and in that way represented the connections. People were invited to write up little messages in a ‘tweet like’ way and stick them all over the room. This created a colorful and amusing activity while waiting for the debate to start.

Of course, we came for the talk and discussion of the day: Why 2.0 will win the streets: new forms of protest and mobilization. After a short introduction by Hivos itself, the first keynote speaker of that day was introduced: Juliana chebe Rotich for the Ushahidi Project. This she describes as a platform, a community and an organization and as a way to reach social inclusion. Kenya, according to Ushahidi, should group together the several Digital Natives and move beyond the standard applications such as Twitter and Facebook. Open Source was their basic principle from which they further built on the web based reporting system to formulate visual map information of a crisis

The second project discussed was by Jasmine Patheja on the Blank Noise project. This one in particular got my interest as it treated a problem, which to me, seems rather hard to address in a Machismo society such as India. The Blank Noise project would photograph men who had committed some sort of street sexual harassment, also called Eve Teasing. Not in the worst sense of the word, but Jasmine commented on some of her personal experiences which are, I think quite recognizable for every woman. It wasn’t only about men groping or touching you, but also about gazing, staring, calling names and capturing that on camera. Interesting was the power switch she described, once she started photographing these men, but unfortunately she did not elaborate on this much more. If it would already raise some sort of awareness in these men’s minds, Blank Noise has according to me already accomplished quite a fair deal. What I particularly liked about it was that the project captured a problem that is very common in (Indian) society, but has apparently evolved this far, in that it became normality. Blank noise succeeded in giving this problem a face.

Later that evening we would all join a very fine dinner in one of the Hague’s art spaces. An inspiring location where I met Colombian/Norwegian lecturer Álvaro Ramírez. After a long talk over dinner, I suddenly saw myself walking away with the second project to visit in Colombia called This is a project from Ramírez which he set up in and around smaller villages of Medellín. Because of the difficult situation in these areas with government, guerillas and paramilitaries around, Ramirez though of a way in which the local people could give voice to these problems. The result was which is written in both English and Dutch and seemed to me everything but slacktivism.

At 22.00 I left the Hivos event with a thrilling feeling that my thesis was getting some shape….