The Pedagogic Favela: Decolonization and the Research Encounter in Rio de Janeiro

Authors: Alessandro Angelini*, Johns Hopkins University
Topics: Urban Geography, Latin America, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Brazil, inequality, decolonialization, favelas
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper takes the critical lessons of colonial constructions of the ‘real’ into a contemporary moment in which academic programmes approach urban peripheries as a social problem and available source of disciplinary knowledge. Rio de Janeiro’s favelas host an increasing number of ‘summer schools’ and ‘studios’ coordinated by universities, many from the Global North. These sojourns are often represented as means to undertake participatory or co-produced research, and with a claimed action or catalytic dimension. Importantly, the favela provides an available site for pedagogy, a resource through which students are exposed to ‘real life’ and the residents are promised that their lives can be transformed through practical learning and collaboration. However, in Complexo do Alemão, one of Rio’s largest and most conflict-ridden favelas, an experimental initiative organized by local activists known as the Center de Research, Documentation and Memory created spaces of exchange to orient research around local problems, rather than around academic debates that often seemed arcane and detached from lived realities. The Center runs counter to the broader trend of academic engagements with the favela that perpetuate long-standing power dynamics between local residents and outsider researchers. These exchanges aim to undo the extractivist dynamic of scholarly knowledge production since social science first ‘discovered’ the favela almost a century ago. Using the language of decolonization, this new paradigm of research ethics and praxis runs counter to a larger trend of using the favela and other urban peripheral spaces as sites of what is variously being termed experiential learning.

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