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Peace Challenges and the Moral Weapons of Pacification in Rio de Janeiro

Courir pour la paix : les armes morales des politiques de pacification à Rio de Janeiro
Carly Machado
p. 115-147


The policy known as « pacification » in Rio de Janeiro started as an intervention proposed by Brazil’s State Secretary of Public Security in 2008, with the official objective of ‘retaking territories’ under the control of criminal factions. In practice this meant military occupation of the ’favelas and control of their populations. The main aim of this article is to analyze the pacification project in Rio de Janeiro and its multiple effects over the last eight years, looking beyond public security practices and Brazilian state forces, and proposing a reflection on the symbolic, moral and cultural processes that contribute significantly to the legitimization of pacification actions. Based on different experiences in the field, this article analyses two events staged in Complexo do Alemão six months after its occupation : the « Peace Challenge » race and a Gospel Show. They reveal, different moral « weapons » from the arsenal of pacification, such as religious and cultural practices and discourses that model and remodel ways of living, thinking and feeling in these territories and their effects on the populations targeted by these interventions. The conclusion to this paper suggests that a key element of Rio de Janeiro’s pacification policy is the dissociative potential of state practices that impact the residents’ own creative strategies for protection and resistance, by influencing local social relations and partnerships established over decades in Rio’s favelas. While we might hastily conclude that the presence of the state offers an alternative regime of protection to favela residents, careful long-term research demonstrates that this « dissociation » is a goal in itself, and its consequences are simply further vulnerability and exposure of this population to state violence.

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Pacification and State Practices in Rio de Janeiro
The “Field” of Pacification as a Crossfire Experience
Peace Projects and Citizenship : Redesigning the “Pacified” City and the “Right to Come and Go”
Religion and Culture : Other Weapons of Pacification
Peace under Threat : Pacification and the Production of Conflicts
Final Considerations : Pacification as a Policy of Dissociation, not Only Occupation

First lines

In November 2010, the Brazilian army occupied two of the largest clusters of favelas in Rio de Janeiro as a strategic act under the Rio de Janeiro State Government’s « pacification policy » a policy first implemented in 2008 within the scope of its public security program. Located side-by-side, separated by a small hill, and covering large swathes of territory, Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão had for many years been depicted in the Rio public imagination as areas « dominated » by violent crime. Their alleged dangerousness has meant that at various moments in recent history they have been the target of large-scale police and military interventions. During preparations for the global sporting events planned for 2014 and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, these territories were once again the site of state actions of control and repression.

According to official state government data, Complexo do Alemão is composed of fifty communities, with an estimated population of sixty to seventy thousan...

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Bibliographical reference

Carly Machado, « Peace Challenges and the Moral Weapons of Pacification in Rio de Janeiro », L’Homme, 219-220 | 2016, 115-147.

Electronic reference

Carly Machado, « Peace Challenges and the Moral Weapons of Pacification in Rio de Janeiro », L’Homme [Online], 219-220 | 2016, Online since 28 November 2018, connection on 22 April 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lhomme.29067

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About the author

Carly Machado

Universidade federal rural do Rio de JaneiroDepartemento de cienciâs sociais, Rio de Janeiro (Brésil)

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