Framing the World Cup: Competing Discourses of Favela Pacification as a Mega-Event Legacy in Brazil

Framing the World Cup: Competing Discourses of Favela Pacification as a Mega-Event Legacy in Brazil

In November of 2010, Brazilian military and police officers rolled through the streets of Complexo de Alemão, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, in an effort to ‘take back’ the community from notorious drug traffickers in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Given the pervasive rhetoric that the occupation of favelas by the ‘pacifying’ Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) program is for these mega events, what are the effects of this framing, and how is it used and contested by multiple actors? What subjects are called into being as a ‘threat’ through discourses regarding the UPPs, and how does this rhetoric legitimate violent practices of security by the state? Employing Judith Butler’s concepts of framing and the constitutive outside, I argue that there are multiple and competing discourses that frame UPP military police interventions, which have important legacy ramifications for Brazil’s mega events. In general, many international popular media accounts highly decontextualize and exoticize the space of the favela, constituting a site of threatening, yet consumable, Otherness. The state tends to construct simplistic dichotomies of space and subjects as threatening in order to legitimate its own actions. However, many favela inhabitants are reframing these constitutions to undermine the state’s attempts at legitimation and bring into reflief the historical and socio-political continuities of Brazilian militarization.

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