The securitization of citizenship in a ‘Segregated City’: A reflection on Rio’s Pacifying Police Units

Desiree Poets

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The Pacification Police Units – UPPs – implemented in Rio de Janeiro since 2008 have as one of their stated goals the promotion of the integration between the pacified favelas and the ‘formal’ city, aiming to overcome the view of Rio as a ‘divided city’. Intending to problematize the reasoning behind this stated goal in order to question the UPPs’ very foundations, this article examines the political and sociospatial background in which they were introduced. The implementation and operation of the UPPs is outlined in the context of the militarization of Rio’s spaces, and especially of its urban poor regions, within an analysis of what assumptions about favelas and slum residents the UPPs imply. The UPPs are analyzed in dialogue with Giorgio Agamben’s work as a sovereign act of ‘drawing lines of distinction’ between lives worth living and politically worthless ‘Others’. It becomes clear that they are guilty of articulating and reinforcing what Teresa Caldeira has named the ‘talk of crime’, a Manicheistic discourse through which Brazilians articulate and cope with their daily encounter with violence. The disjunctive nature of Brazil’s ‘inclusively inegalitarian’ democracy, as explored by James Holston, is emphasized. Brazil emerges as a post-dictatorial country, in which neoliberal reforms and democratic opening have simultaneously implied an increasingly authoritarian penal state that targets the urban marginalized as its ‘internal enemies’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-194
JournalURBE - Revista Brasileira de Gestão Urbana
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


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