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5 - Scaling Hope

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2024

Daniel N. Silva
Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
Jerry Won Lee
University of California, Irvine


This chapter investigates scaling in the work of hope. We foreground how hope is not merely an abstract aspiration but a principled, time-oriented praxis by showcasing how hope can be meaningfully pursued when scaled through pedagogical work. Our cases include the central NGOS/activist groups in our ethnography, namely Instituto Raízes em Movimento, Instituto Marielle Franco, and Coletivo Papo Reto. We examine, for instance, the case of how Raízes em Movimento appropriates and rescales the trope of “circulando,” a policing practice premised on the criminalization of faveladas/os. We afterwards examine the case of artistic and organizational responses to the historical and contemporary silencing of Blacks in Brazil, examining the case of Favela Não Se Cala alongside the activist work of the Instituto Marielle Franco. We then look to the work of Coletivo Papo Reto who perform pedagogical work representing the transformative ethos of papo reto activist register. This collective work highlights the teachable–scalable–dimensions of hope through sociolinguistic action, by which hope comes to be rescaled from mere abstraction toward a form of social change.

Language as Hope , pp. 123 - 152
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024
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This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

… En aquel Imperio, el Arte de la Cartografía logró tal Perfección que el mapa de una sola Provincia ocupaba toda una Ciudad, y el mapa del Imperio, toda una Provincia. Con el tiempo, estos Mapas Desmesurados no satisficieron y los Colegios de Cartógrafos levantaron un Mapa del Imperio, que tenía el tamaño del Imperio y coincidía puntualmente con él. Menos Adictas al Estudio de la Cartografía, las Generaciones Siguientes entendieron que ese dilatado Mapa era Inútil y no sin Impiedad lo entregaron a las Inclemencias del Sol y los Inviernos. En los desiertos del Oeste perduran despedazadas Ruinas del Mapa, habitadas por Animales y por Mendigos; en todo el País no hay otra reliquia de las Disciplinas Geográficas.

Jorge Luis Borges, “Del rigor en la ciencia” (Reference Borges1946)Footnote 1

5.1 Los Angeles as a Problem of Scale

The late French philosopher Reference BaudrillardJean Baudrillard’s (1994) essay on “Simulacra and Simulations” offered an unusual and memorable thesis on Disneyland based on his visit to “Los Angeles” in the 1970s. After experiencing the theme park, he would go on to argue that Disneyland is a mere “simulacrum” of Los Angeles, operating as a land of fantasy that masks the reality that it is in fact the real world outside of Disneyland that is fantasy.Footnote 2 Baudrillard’s thesis was reflective of typical postmodern theory popular throughout the second half of the twentieth century, guided by a shared interest in subverting the established order of things. But there is actually an inadvertent subversion of the established order of things that occurs in Baudrillard’s text, which is his mislocation of Disneyland in Los Angeles. It is scarcely a secret that Disneyland is actually located in Anaheim, which is in the County of Orange, not even the County of Los Angeles, much less the City of Los Angeles. Of course, this distinction perhaps only matters when scaled to the level of the immediate or the local. For one visiting from France or even another part of the United States, Disneyland, which is approximately 12 km from the southeasternmost boundary of Los Angeles County and 37 km from the southeasternmost boundary of the City of Los Angeles (i.e., Los Angeles “proper,” if you will), might as well be in Los Angeles. Scale, in other words, is what makes the distinction matter.

The County of Los Angeles, even without Disneyland, is vast. It has an area of nearly 2,000 km and a population that surpasses 10 million people, which represents over a quarter of the population of the entire state of California. Naturally, an area this large is expected to have considerable demographic diversity but also, less expectedly, climate diversity. Indeed, Los Angeles contains one of the more unusual and intriguing features of the natural world: the microclimate. We are likely aware of various climates of the world and the extremity of their variation, from the rainforest to the desert to the tundra to the polar ice cap. A microclimate, meanwhile, is an area within a larger climate in which atmospheric conditions differ from the immediately surrounding area to the extent that, effectively, a miniature ecosystem exists within another. Microclimates are actually a rather common phenomenon, as they can be the result of something as common as a mountain range that functions as a barrier to elements that would otherwise provide respite. One such case is the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. While the greater Los Angeles area is known to have mild if not favorable weather year round, in the case of the San Fernando Valley, referred to as simply “the Valley” by locals, the temperature can be notably warmer compared to other parts of the region. For one, any valley region is typically warmer because of lower elevation. In the case of the San Fernando Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains to the west prevent the coastal winds from the Pacific Ocean from reaching the region. Similar to how Disneyland represents a very particular rendition of “Los Angeles,” the San Fernando Valley being a microclimate results in a very (atmospherically) particular rendition of “Los Angeles.” Consider, for a moment, if one were to visit Los Angeles but only experience the weather of the San Fernando Valley – their experience of “Los Angeles” weather would be remarkably different from another who spent time elsewhere in Los Angeles. Scale, again, comes to be a salient factor in shaping our experience with the material world.

We offer scale as a heuristic for conceptualizing the degree to which something matters in a given context and how various things, whether language resources or ideological positions, can be transplanted across contexts in strategic manner to ensure their relevance and applicability. By taking this position, we align our work with what Reference Carr, Lempert, Carr and LempertE. Summerson Carr and Michael Lempert (2016) have described as the “pragmatics of scale,” or the call to “take a critical distance from given scalar distinctions, whether our own or others’, and focus instead on the social circumstances, dynamics, and consequences of scale-making as social practice and project” (p. 9). In this chapter, we propose that a particularly instructive practice of scalar work is to be found in the grassroots pedagogical practices of faveladas/os. In the pages that follow, we engage with the work of various activists representing the main collectives described throughout this book: Instituto Raízes em Movimento, Instituto Marielle Franco, and Coletivo Papo Reto. By doing so, we foreground the teachable dimensions of hope in the sociolinguistic action of these collectives. As we shall see, through such semiotic work, hope comes to be rescaled from mere abstraction toward a form of social change.

5.2 Scaling Hope through Pedagogical Practice

A logical place to begin our description of scaling hope through pedagogical practice is the work of Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire (1921–1997), who places concrete utopia at the center of his philosophy of education. In fact, dream and utopia are precisely the focus of his first sentences of Pedagogia da Esperança (Reference Freire1992), or Pedagogy of Hope (Reference Freire1994), a book that was intended as a commentary to his acclaimed Pedagogia do Oprimido (Reference Freire1972), first published in English as Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970). This is how Freire opens Pedagogy of Hope:

Quando muita gente faz discursos pragmáticos e defende nossa adaptação aos fatos, acusando sonho e utopia não apenas de inúteis, mas também de inoportunos enquanto elementos que fazem necessariamente parte de toda prática educativa desocultação das mentiras dominantes, pode parecer estranho que eu escreva um livro chamado Pedagogia da Esperança: um reencontro com a pedagogia do oprimido.

We are surrounded by a pragmatic discourse that would have us adapt to the facts of reality. Dreams, and utopia, are called not only useless, but positively impeding. (After all, they are an intrinsic part of any educational practice with the power to unmask the dominant lies.) It may seem strange, then, that I should write a book called Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

For Reference FreireFreire (1994), hope is an essential part of the struggle for a more just world; similar to Ernst Bloch (see Chapter 1), Freire sees hope as an affect that requires practical action: “as an ontological need, hope needs practice in order to become historical concreteness” (p. 2). In Portuguese, Reference FreireFreire (1992) puns on the word “espera” or “waiting,” which shares the same root with “esperança” or “hope,” and says that there is no “esperança” in “espera pura(p. 15) or “sheer waiting or passive expectation.” In other words, only in active participation can we achieve hope.

In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, written in Chile during his exile by the Brazilian dictatorship, Reference FreireFreire (1972) outlined two language ideologies for pedagogy: the “banking” concept of education, based on a referentialist construction of language (see Reference Bauman and BriggsBauman & Briggs, 2003) at the base of alienation in capitalist societies, and dialogical education, a performative view of the educational dialogue as “um ato de criação e recriação (an act of creation and re-creation)” (p. 38), centered on the affect of love as a mode of disalienation. Freire recasts the dynamics of oppression predicated on the banking concept of education, that is, the view that education is “o ato de depositar, de transferir, de transmitir valores e conhecimentos (the act of depositing, transferring, transmitting values and knowledge)” (p. 67). Freire advances an educational dialogic praxis centered on overcoming the psychic intrusion of oppression. Dialogic education leads the oppressed into recognizing their “‘consciência servil’ em relação à consciência do senhor’ (‘servile consciousness’ vis-à-vis the consciousness of the master)” – that is, it fosters in the oppressed a recognition of their transformation into “quase ‘coisa’ (almost a ‘thing’)” (p. 40) and their dependence on the bond of oppression (the same recognition holds for the oppressor, as Freire’s quote below suggests). “Amor,” or “love,” for Freire is an affect that yields dialogue and radical disalienation. Further, the mutual recognition of the bonds of oppression must necessarily give way to an objective transformation of oppressive relations:

O opressor só se solidariza com os oprimidos quando o seu gesto deixa de ser um gesto piegas e sentimental, de caráter individual, e passa a ser um ato de amor àqueles. Quando, para ele, os oprimidos deixam de ser uma designação abstrata e passam a ser os homens concretos, injustiçados e roubados. Roubados na sua palavra, por isto no seu trabalho comprado, que significa a sua pessoa vendida. Só na plenitude deste ato de amar, na sua existenciação, na sua práxis, se constitui a solidariedade verdadeira. Dizer que os homens são pessoas e, como pessoas, são livres, e nada concretamente fazer para que esta afirmação se objetive, é uma farsa.

The oppressor only is solidary with the oppressed when their gesture goes from mushy, sentimental, and individual to a gesture of love for the oppressed. When the oppressed are no longer an abstract appellation and become concrete men and women, wronged and robbed. Cheated in their voice, and therefore in the sale of their labor, which means that they have been sold. Only in the plenitude of this act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis, there will be true solidarity. To say that men and women are people, and as people they are free, while doing nothing concretely to make this utterance an objective one, is a farce.

In his ethnography of a dispossessed group of Fijians, the Suvavou people, who have reclaimed ancestral land, Reference MiyazakiMiyazaki (2004) argues that hope is a method of “reorienting the direction of knowledge” (p. 12). Freire’s critique of the banking concept of education and his proposal of a dialogic method of education is in this sense similarly a radical reorientation of knowledge. For Freire, this hopeful reorientation is grounded on practice and entails a reimagining of language resources. In other words, Freire first unpacks the banking metadiscourse – an individualistic and referentialist linguistic ideology that imagines the access to and performance of language in purely representational terms. For example, in the excerpt above, discourses of oppression, including banking education, regard “the oppressed as an abstract category” – that is, fundamental aspects of their indexicality as “persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor” are erased (for an account of erasure in language ideology, see Reference Gal and IrvineGal & Irvine, 2019, pp. 20–21). Freire then reorients this dominant discourse by imagining an alternative linguistic ideology – a dialogic education where subjects risk “acts of love” or situated dialogue. This alternative linguistic ideology thus reaffirms the “indexical potential of language” (Reference Borba, Peck, Stroud and WilliamsBorba, 2019b, p. 167), that is, this reorientation moves the oppressed away from a purely representational domain and towards a dialogic praxis, where their social belonging becomes indexical of situated and concrete relations of injustice.

The possibility of hope as being realized through pedagogical work comes to be salient when understood in relation to different approaches to “utopia.” If we return briefly to Bloch’s theorization of hope vis-à-vis utopia, intriguing is Reference LevitasRuth Levitas’s (1990) commentary that Bloch places hope in the field of practical utopia, as opposed to abstract utopia, which is akin to mere wishful thinking. She explains that, for Bloch, abstract utopia is “fantastic and compensatory. It is wishful thinking, but the wish is not accompanied by a will to change anything” (pp. 14–15). Instead, concrete utopia is “anticipatory rather than compensatory” (p. 15). In addition to anticipating the future, concrete utopia also aims at effecting it. Concrete utopia requires practical and pedagogic work, and therefore Bloch thinks of the concrete work of hope as docta spes, which Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight, Bloch’s English-language translators, render as “comprehended hope” but Levitas translates as “educated hope.” As an adjective, the Latin word “doctus (fem. docta)” means “clever, learned, trained.” As a participle of the verb “docere,” it means “having been taught, instructed.” Levitas’s translation thus best captures the pedagogical sense of educating oneself and others to hope, which pervades both Bloch’s philosophy and the ethnopragmatics we describe in this book.

“Educated” hope, then, is a form of practical hope grounded in the ethical cultivation of sensibilities and dispositions necessary for the “intelligence of hope” (Reference BlochBloch, 1986, p. 146) – a collective and practical attitude toward becoming. Bloch adds that the work of hope “requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong” (p. 3). Yet this imaginative work of “throwing” ourselves into which we belong differs from mere idealism or escapism. In this regard, Reference BlochBloch’s (1986, p. 3) differentiation between enervating and provocative daydreams is significant:

Everybody’s life is pervaded by daydreams: one part of this is just stale, even enervating escapism, even booty for swindlers, but another part is provocative, is not content just to accept the bad which exists, does not accept renunciation. This other part has hoping at its core, and is teachable.

(p. 3, emphasis added)

Educated hope thus results from practices of cultivating certain embodied dispositions to act – directed to concrete utopia, which “is not simply a ‘correct’ version of abstract utopia, but a praxis-oriented category characterized by ‘militant optimism’” (Reference LevitasLevitas, 1990, p. 18). And this cultivation of hope, it is worth repeating, is teachable.

Another aspect of Bloch’s theorization to which we would like to draw attention concerns the forms of collective sociality that hope entails. As we commented above, Bloch is critical of the Platonic principle that knowledge is anamnesis, that is, the idea that knowing is remembering something that is already inscribed in an ideal instance to which we have access through sensible means. For Bloch, this theory prevented the emergence of the “being sui generis of a Not-Yet-Being” (p. 140). For Reference BlochBloch (1986), whatever the essence of being may be, it resides in the temporal mode of hope: “Essential being is not Been-ness; on the contrary: the essential being of the world lies itself on the front” (p. 18). As Reference LevitasLevitas (1990) explains, the front or Novum, for Bloch, is “that part of reality which is coming into being on the horizon of the real” (p. 17). Educated hope is thus a practical form of action that does not get petrified in the face of the past, but instead opens itself to participating with others toward becoming, toward the front. The following excerpt is instructive:

And predominant [in docta spes, educated hope] is no longer contemplation, which for centuries has only been related to What Has Become, but the participating, co-operative process-attitude, to which consequently, since Marx, the open becoming is no longer sealed methodically and the Novum no longer alien in material terms.

This passage situates hope in collective and cooperative forms of sociality. Doing hope is thus processual and participatory. It is open to emergent forms of action that arise from evaluating lived reality and imagining practical lines of change. Bloch is ultimately interested in understanding how a logical task such as doing philosophy may open up paths for social intervention and community building. In this regard, his grappling with Engels’s inversion of Kant is significant for the task of collectively educating ourselves and others into the daydreaming of hope: “transformation of the supposed Thing in Itself into the Thing for Us” (Reference BlochBloch, 1986, p. 249).

In brief, we learn from Paulo Freire and Ernst Bloch that the practical work of hope does not rest in pura espera, or sheer waiting, but in a concrete, participatory, and collective work of educating bodily sensibilities, forms of talk, and other semiotic practices towards hope. Notwithstanding their differences, Freire’s pedagogy of hope and Bloch’s educated hope are both a means of reorienting knowledge, temporality, and semiotic resources – and especially means of teaching others and ourselves on how to perform these reorientations. Such reorientations, as we have suggested above, are ultimately a matter of scale. Consider, for a brief moment, the “Map of the Empire” in Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, “Del Rigor en la Ciencia” or “On Exactitude in Science.” The map, having been constructed at 1:1 scale of the Empire, turns out to be so large that it is effectively “Inútil,” or “Useless.” Hope, likewise, runs the risk of being “Useless” if it is not situated and practical, as we suggested in Chapter 1. Here, we focus on pedagogical hope as one way of scaling and thus actualizing hope as a form of action-oriented practice. In the same way that a map can only be not “Useless” – and ideally useful – if it is able to re-present a terrain so that it is conceivable to its viewers (scaled). Likewise, hope, as a pedagogical practice, takes something that is otherwise “merely” utopian – for example, an aspiration suspended into the indefinite future – and rescales it into the concrete. This type of pedagogical and scalar work, enacted ultimately through the resourceful deployment of language by favela grassroots activists and organizations, punctuates the possibility of language as hope.

5.3 Circulando against the Police State

In 2013, Instituto Raízes em Movimento (see Chapter 2) hosted a series of events in Complexo do Alemão, including one called Circulando – Diálogo e Comunicação nas Favelas, or Circulating – Dialogue and Communication in Favelas. Circulando featured a combination of debates inside the Institute’s premises and an open-air fair, with music and artistic performances on the Central Avenue in Complexo do Alemão. In linguistic-ideological terms, the event represented an effort to promote a reorientation of knowledge about the favela, which is evident in the very strategy of naming the event after a police-specific terminology conventionally used against faveladas/os. “Circulando!” is a term often used by police officers to disperse people gathering in the streets, given the police’s alleged task of preventing “idleness” and “vagrancy.” At several events in fieldwork where activists occupied the streets of Complexo do Alemão, Daniel and his colleagues witnessed the implicit politics of “circulando.” Although the police did not actually use the jargon in such situations where faveladas/os and activists were gathering on the streets, the ostensive police presence was an indirect sign of “circulando.

We may trace the origin of the usage of “circulando” in this manner back to the very creation of the police as an institution of modern administration at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Michel Foucault historicized the birth of the modern notion of police in his 1977–1978 lectures at the Collège de France that became known as Security, Territory, Population (see Reference FoucaultFoucault, 2007). While in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in Europe and in the territories Europeans were colonizing, the word “police” referred to “a form of community or association governed by a public authority” (Reference FoucaultFoucault, 2007, p. 312), after the 1600s, European thinkers and bureaucrats started to refer to something completely different through this word. For example, in 1611, Turquet de Mayerne, in his utopian treatise La Monarchie aristodémocratique, attempts to give form in French to notions emerging at the time concerning the place of the police in government – in particular the notion that had already emerged in Germany of Polizeistaat, police state, or government administration as policing. For Maynerne, unlike other governmental institutions like “justice, the army, and finance” (p. 321), the police would be responsible, among other ends, for the education of people and their professionalization. Fundamentally, the police were supposed to control the movement of people and goods. The police were supposed to make sure that people worked, had an “occupation,” and therefore avoided “idleness” and “vagrancy” (p. 325). Foucault points out that in the projects of Maynerne and other thinkers and bureaucrats at the time, “the space of circulation [emerges as] a privileged object for police” (p. 325). He adds that by:

“circulation” we should understand not only [the] material network that allows the circulation of goods and possibly of men, but also the circulation itself, that is to say, the set of regulations, constraints, and limits, or the facilities and encouragements that will allow the circulation of men and things in the kingdom and possibly beyond its borders.

(p. 325)

As currently used, “circulando” might seem to iterate the pedagogical and linguistic-ideological imagination of policing as biopolitical “administrative modernity” (Reference FoucaultFoucault, 2007, p. 321). Yet in Brazilian cities, the police’s dual role as an institution to “civilize” and “control circulation” is unevenly played. In (upper-)middle class neighborhoods, the police are remarkably less hostile to residents. Crowds on the streets of upscale neighborhoods are hardly dispersed through “circulando.” Activists from Complexo do Alemão thus reclaim the particular sense of “circulando” as an injunction against faveladas/os and reorient it into a different direction. For example, in Chapter 2 we discussed approaches and data on disproportionate police violence against faveladas/os and Blacks that point to policing in peripheries not only as modern biopolitical power, but above all as a kind of necropolitics (Reference MbembeMbembe, 2003) directed at portions of the population seen as “enemies.” Given the associations between violent state action and necropolitics, the Complexo do Alemão activists resignify circulando as both festive circulation in the streets and the emergence of life (see also Chapter 3). These two senses of circulando are embedded, for example, in the invitation to the 2014 Circulando event that Instituto Raízes em Movimento posted on social media:

Imaginem uma rua inteira ocupada com expressões variadas de arte e cultura para serem apreciadas e apropriadas pelo público. São oficinas, grafiti, exibição de filmes, intervenções urbanas, muita música e por aí vai. Desta vez o projeto vem com duas performances de rua que vão movimentar, em alto nível, a integração com os presentes “circulantes”:

  1. 1. De novo teremos a participação da ORQUESTRA VOADORA puxando o bonde com um cortejo que vai arrastar o povo subida à cima pela Central, até chegarmos ao palco principal;

  2. 2. O Coletivo de Artistas Anônimos – Bonobando apresentará a performance teatral “Finge que nada tá acontecendo,” de própria autoria. Tudo no meio da rua, interagindo totalmente com o ambiente natural das coisas e do momento.

É PELA VIDA que o CIRCULANDO vai acontecer. Vem com toda força para demonstrar suas angústias pelo atual momento que passa o Alemão, mas também compartilhar os valores mais verdadeiros que o favelado carrega na essência.

Imagine an entire street occupied with a variety of expressions of art and culture to be appreciated and appropriated by the public. There are workshops, graffiti, film screenings, urban interventions, music, and so on. This time the project comes with two street performances that will greatly stimulate an integration with the “circulating” audience:

  1. 1. Once again we will have the participation of ORQUESTRA VOADORA, leading a parade that will bring people up Avenida Central until we reach the main stage;

  2. 2. The Coletivo de Artistas Anônimos – Bonobando will present the theatrical performance “Pretend that nothing is happening,” which they themselves authored. Everything in the middle of the street, fully interacting with the natural environment of things and the moment.

It is FOR LIFE that CIRCULANDO is going to happen. Come with all your strength to demonstrate your anxiety about the current moment that Alemão is going through, but also to share the most truthful values that favela residents carry in their essence.

This invitation evokes the practice of hope as scale. It is worth noting that favela collectives centrally engage with Paulo Freire’s legacy of popular education. Following the coup that installed a military dictatorship in Brazil in 1964, Freire went into exile in different countries. Yet it was probably his experience with adult literacy and popular movements in Chile between 1964 and 1969 that proved to be the turning point in his thinking (Reference HolstHolst, 2006). Alongside his experience leading literacy circles with peasants and following grassroots struggles for land reform, Freire wrote in Chile The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Compared to previous works such as Educação como prática da liberdade, or Education: The Practice of Freedom (Freire, 1965), which was “informed by a liberal developmentalist outlook” (Reference HolstHolst, 2006, p. 243), Pedagogy of the Oppressed indexes a Marxist inflection in his philosophy (Reference RobertsRoberts, 2000). From the experience with the popular classes in Chile, Freire places emphasis on the dynamics of the social and psychic intrusion of oppression in the oppressed – and on education as a mode of scaling (i.e., rethinking and resocializing) that builds on the suffering experienced by the oppressed.

The statement, “Come with all your strength to demonstrate your anxiety about the current moment that Alemão is going through, but also to share the most truthful values that favela residents carry in their essence,” might be said to summarize this form of aforementioned scaling discourse. In other words, Raízes em Movimento simultaneously builds on a moment that provokes anxiety (that is, the human rights violations in favelas ahead of the mega-events in Rio de Janeiro) and projects the event as opportunity to celebrate faveladas/os’ values, posited as “essential” or iconic to their identity. The invitation scales hope as an expansive and propulsive affect through particular sociolinguistic strategies, such as the use of the indexicalcirculantes” (i.e., circulating audience or people), which both singles out the people invited to the event and performatively summons them as people who move around the neighborhood, possibly unafraid of harsh policing. The invitation also marks the term VIDA, or LIFE, in capital letters, conspicuously signaling their emphasis on the politics of life (as opposed to necropolitics). Besides, against a view of favelas as places that “lack” culture and other forms of symbolic capital, the invitation lists multiple artistic performances and installations, thus portraying Circulando as a vibrant artistic event. Fundamentally, Circulando is one of the many initiatives in favela collectives that project an educated hope by fostering participation frameworks for the cultivation of habituated embodied sensibilities. The social media invitation to the 2014 Circulando, for example, places emphasis on habituated emotions such as strength, joy, aesthetic pleasure, and an expansion for life, as opposed to the anxiety wrought by oppression. Such emotional stances, made attainable through scalar work, are representative of the aspirations fundamental to the Instituto Raízes em Movimento’s pedagogical hope.

5.4 “Favela Não Se Cala”

In this section we focus on a grassroots pedagogy that responds to the dynamics of speech and silence in favelas that we alluded to in Chapter 4. While Reference Machado da Silva and MenezesMachado da Silva and Menezes (2019) and other scholars in the sociology of violence in Brazil point to a widespread fear on the part of favela residents in speaking about the normative regimes that dispute the government of peripheries – the State and the “world of crime” – activists build on the historical silencing of Blacks and project alternatives to the fear of speaking up. Ethnographically, we have observed that in activists’ responses to silencing, the affect of hope seems to coexist alongside anger – something that Reference Deumert, De Fina and MazzaferroAna Deumert (2021) has noted in Black activism in South Africa, particularly as anger is enacted through the medium of sound and music. This enraged hope, so to speak, varies from the dynamics of resignifying trauma through its repetition (Reference BirmanBirman, 1991; Reference ButlerButler, 1997; Reference Freud and StracheyFreud, 1920) to a pedagogy of talk that does not necessarily repeat the traumatic scene but rewrites it in other terms. We focus on the case of how the image of Anastácia – a Black enslaved woman represented in a 1839 painting by Jacques Arago being tortured with the Flanders Mask (see Figure 5.1) – was surfaced and resignified in the 2013 Circulando event and in Reference FrancoAnielle Franco’s 2021 master’s thesis (see Reference FrancoFranco, A., 2021).

Figure 5.1 Castigo de escravo (Punishment for Slaves) by Jacques Arago (1839).

Museu Afro Brasil (São Paulo).

First, we must reconsider the circumstances surrounding the year 2013, in particular the removals of favelas ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. In a debate at the 2013 Circulando about a documentary produced by activists in South Africa, André Constantine, a member of the Favela Não Se Cala (Favela Does Not Shut Up) collective, wore a t-shirt with the image of Anastácia displayed above the name of the collective (see Figure 5.2). Following the screening of Dear Mandela, a documentary directed by Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza about the legal struggle fought by the Abahlali social movement to resist evictions of township residents ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, André and other activists debated the comparatively similar situation experienced by faveladas/os in Rio de Janeiro. Bandile Mdlalose, an Abahlali member portrayed in the documentary, and the director Dara Kell were also present at the event. In the years leading up to 2013, the narrative of the “Olympic legacy” (Reference BroudehouxBroudehoux, 2007, Reference Broudehoux, Colomb and Novy2016), promoted by the real estate market, corporate media, and the public sector, was widely disseminated as justification for profound urban transformations in Rio de Janeiro, such as changes in road networks, the new experiment of police “pacification,” and enforced family evictions (Reference Barreira, Brito and OliveiraBarreira, 2013; Reference MagalhãesMagalhães, 2013; Reference Silva, Fabrício, Silva and MeySilva & Fabrício, 2021). Data from Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Housing Secretariat show that between 2009 and 2014, more than 20,000 families were removed from their homes (Reference Faulhaber and AzavedoFaulhaber & Azevedo, 2015). Several favelas were completely or partially removed, such as Favela do Metrô and Vila Autódromo. Reference Faulhaber and AzavedoFaulhaber and Azevedo (2015) describe the recurring scenes they saw in favelas that were subject to evictions for the mega-events:

Wherever you go in a favela that has been partially or totally removed, or those that are under siege by the municipal administration, the scene is always the same. Amongst the debris of an unequal dispute, with the government and the private companies on one side, and, on the other side, the residents, the remains of demolished houses signal a scene of devastation. It is possible to see the psychological and bureaucratic onslaughts, linked to the unconstitutional decrees of expropriation, judicial orders which are so often questionable, and attempts to divide the residents with individual pledges of compensation …

(pp. 11–12)

Figure 5.2 André Constantine: Favela não se cala (Favela Does Not Shut Up).

In the face of evictions and other urban transformations resulting in suffering for faveladas/os, André Constantine participated in the debate representing the favelas of Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira, both located on hillsides near Copacabana. In linguistic-ideological terms, it is interesting to note that the very name of the collective that André helped create, Favela não se cala, builds on a particular imagination of language as hope. Named as a denial of silence, the collective rescales the background of stifling and silencing Blacks in Brazil that we have been documenting in this book. This background is iconically rendered in André’s t-shirt displaying Anastácia being subjected to the use of the Flanders Mask. Reference KilombaGrada Kilomba (2010) explains that this was a “mask of speechlessness (…), a very concrete piece, a real instrument, which became a part of the European colonial project for more than three hundred years” (p. 16, emphasis in original).Footnote 3 Kilomba adds that

the mask was used by white masters to prevent enslaved Africans from eating sugar cane or cocoa beans while working on the plantations, but its primary function was to implement a sense of speechlessness and fear, inasmuch as the mouth was a place of both muteness and torture.

(p. 16, emphasis in original)

That is, this “real instrument” – “a very concrete piece” – had a threefold use: to dominate, to impede nourishment, and to suppress speech. Significantly, André’s t-shirt combined the name of the movement, Favela não se cala, with this image of domination and silencing, echoing, we might say, Reference Freud and StracheyFreud’s (1920) old teaching that trauma must be overcome through its narration in proper enunciative conditions (see also Reference BirmanBirman, 1991). Drawing on Derrida’s deconstruction as well as Freudian psychoanalysis, Reference ButlerJudith Butler (1997) analogously suggests that “repetition” may be a strategy for displacing the performative force of injurious words and images. Thus, a series of intervals exist between Anastácia’s actual plight in her lifetime, Arago’s portrayal of her wearing the speechlessness mask, and Favela não se cala’s recontextualization of her image. These intervals between “instances of utterances,” Reference ButlerButler (1997) maintains, “not only make (…) the repetition and resignification of the utterance possible, but show how words might, through time, become disjoined from their power to injure and recontextualized in more affirmative modes” (p. 15). Indeed, this work of resignification through recontextualization seemed to be at stake in André’s intervention in Circulando. Notably, he combined affordances not only from the work of resignification, but from a whole corporeal and affective ensemble of semiotic resources to explain and enact the Favela não se cala’s educated hope.

As he spoke, André hit his own chest with closed fists. The force and frequency of the blows echoed the hybridization of self-sacrifice and courage embedded in previous accounts in the debate, such as Bandile’s narration of her arrest during the demonstrations against evictions in South Africa. André’s bodily performance was accompanied by the outlining of a critical perspective about capitalist interests in Rio, which at the time had turned some urban areas into construction sites for the mega-events. Thus, the activist pointed out that the “militarização fascista” (“fascist militarization”) – that is, the installation of Pacifying Police Units and other military actions in favelas ahead of the mega-events – was “atrelada ao processo de gentrificação e remoção em favelas” (“tied to the process of gentrification and removal in favelas”). André thus critiqued the commodification of the right to housing, as well as the “privatização do sistema penitenciário” (“privatization of the prison system”) and the strategic role of the police in capitalism.

From his perspective, the commodification of the city is felt in favelas through the historical “guerra contra o pobre, o negro, o habitante de senzalas” (“war against the poor, Blacks, and former enslaved people”). This war, for André, is instantiated in the privatization of the prison system, which, driven by profit, facilitates incarceration, and strengthens organized crime, since the “mãe desesperada que roubou um litro de leite é colocada numa cela junto de uma gerente do tráfico e uma dona de boca de fumo (desperate mother who stole a bottle of milk is put in a cell next to a drug trafficking manager and the owner of a point-of-sale for drug users”). We can observe here his uptake of the role of the police in capitalism:

No capitalismo não tem outra polícia. Ela vai servir aos interesses do grande capital pra reprimir qualquer insurgência popular. É pra isso que serve a polícia. Quem a polícia mata desde a época do Império? Ela foi criada pra defender a coroa e matar os escravos e os negros. Coisa que ela faz muito bem até hoje.

In capitalism there is no other police. It will serve the interests of big capital to repress any popular insurgency. That’s what the police are for. Who have the police killed since the time of the empire? It was created to defend the Crown and to kill slaves and Blacks. Something that it does very well until today.

For André, the silencing of Blacks is something that unfolds at the intersection of capitalism and policing as a strategy of control. Thus, in his words, the police “serve aos interesses do grande capital pra reprimir qualquer insurgência popular” (“serve the interests of big capital to repress any popular insurgency”). Like the Flanders Mask, a hybrid of economic domination, organic impediment to eating, and stifling of speech, the contemporary artifacts of capitalism, such as the police and the prison, are hybrids of the commodification of the city, policing, and silencing the poor. Such hybrids are part of a material whole – and, like any practice of hybridization, they can be purified or situationally circumscribed (see Reference Bauman and BriggsBauman & Briggs, 2003; Reference LatourLatour, 1993). At one point in the debate, as he discussed the regime of language (Reference KroskrityKroskrity, 2000) embedded in Favela não se cala’s educational practice, André’s engagement with Paulo Freire’s grassroots pedagogy became evident:

Me identifiquei muito com aquele jovem [retratado no filme] porque o Favela não se cala tem essa praticidade de ir até as favelas e tentar organizar. Não chegar como uma referência que vai dar luz ou dar as diretrizes, mas tentar consolidar a organização orgânica já existente. Porque o trabalho de base tem que ser bem explicado, bem posto porque senão vira paternalismo.

I strongly identified myself with that young man [portrayed in the film] because Favela não se cala has this practice of going to the favelas and trying to organize [people]. We will not arrive as a reference that is going to enlighten or set the guidelines. Instead, we try to consolidate the organic structure that already exists. Because the grassroots work has to be well explained, well organized. Otherwise, it turns into patronage.

Iterating the Freirian dialogical educational method, the movement does not go to the favelas to convey knowledge (“Não chegar como uma referência que vai dar luz ou dar as diretrizes,” “We will not arrive as a reference that is going to enlighten or set guidelines”). Instead, it seeks to build knowledge on the basis of dialogical processes already underway in aid of “consolidar a organização orgânica já existente” or “consolidat[ing] the organic structure that already exists.” Favela não se cala, therefore, does not take a paternalistic stance that would aim to suppress existing mobilizations, but rather tries to “consolidate” dialogical, collective and organic processes that are already underway. We might be able to conclude through André’s remarks and embodied performance that Favela não se cala operates through a regime of language and education that works alongside specific modes of imagining language and learning. More specifically, the movement resignifies a historical silencing of Blacks and other minorities through iterating Anastácia’s iconic image that at once indexes stifling of speech, deprivation of nurturing, and impediment to political mobilization. André hybridizes this resignification with an “enraged hope” (instantiated, for instance, in his hitting of the chest while speaking), and a critical vision of gentrification and policing as Rio de Janeiro manicures itself in order to host mega-events at the detriment of its most vulnerable citizens.

5.5 Instituto Marielle Franco: Scaling Enraged Hope into an Otherwise Present

In 2021, another activist, Anielle Franco, would advance a different position vis-à-vis trauma. In her master’s dissertation about the legacy of Marielle and the political and educational work of the Instituto Marielle Franco, Anielle references the Flanders Mask as an icon of the historical silencing of Black women. Reference FrancoAnielle Franco (2021) acknowledges that “é impossível falarmos de feminismo negro, sua criação e surgimento, sem citarmos racismo e silenciamento” (“it is impossible to speak of Black feminism, its creation and growth, without citing racism and silencing”) (p. 33). Further, she builds on Reference KilombaGrada Kilomba’s (2010) citation of the Flanders Mask as simultaneously being about a historical trauma and “sobre quem pode e deve, e quem tem o poder de falar” (“about who can and must, and who has the power, to speak”). But contrary to the resignification that we noted in André Constantine’s repetition of the traumatic image, Reference FrancoA. Franco (2021) points to another temporality that is emerging, thereby requiring a different semiotic strategy: “Reference KilombaGrada Kilomba [2010] … traz … em seu livro a foto retrato da mulher negra escravizada conhecida como ‘Escrava Anastácia’. Porém, já passamos da fase de esperar alguém nos dizer quando podemos ou não falar” (“Reference KilombaGrada Kilomba [2010] … brings … in her book the picture of a Black enslaved woman known as ‘Escrava Anastácia’. However, we are past the stage of waiting for someone to tell us when we can and cannot speak”) (p. 35). Equivalently to Marielle’s (and later her mourning movement’s) embedding her chegada na câmara dos vereadores (arrival in the City Hall) into a different form of inhabiting the presente (present time), Anielle refuses to build the present as resignifying the traumatic Mask through repeating it: “já passamos da fase de esperar alguém nos dizer quando podemos ou não falar” (“we are past the stage of waiting for someone to tell us when we can and cannot speak”). Put differently, we are past the time of iterating the wearing of the Mask, however critically, as resignifying it.

To support her temporal claim of inhabiting the present otherwise, Anielle builds on metalepsis, enraged hope, and on a radically different rendition of Anastácia. She begins by metaleptically grounding the work of the Instituto Marielle Franco on the struggle of the “mais velhas, nossas referências” (“the elder Black women, our references,” p. 32). Thus the “luta imensurável … [as] dores, gritos, e ranger de nossas ancestrais” (“immeasurable struggle … [the] pains, cries, and creaks of our ancestors”) is metaleptically present in the struggle of current Black female activists. An important ancestor that Anielle brings to bear on her claim is Conceição Evaristo, an important senior Black fiction writer in Brazil. Anielle cites an interview in which Conceição Evaristo elaborates on the possibility of collectively shattering the Mask:

Aquela imagem de escrava Anastácia (aponta pra ela), eu tenho dito muito que a gente sabe falar pelos orifícios da máscara e às vezes a gente fala com tanta potência que a máscara é estilhaçada. E eu acho que o estilhaçamento é o símbolo nosso, porque a nossa fala força a máscara. Porque todo nosso processo para eu chegar aqui, foi preciso colocar o bloco na rua e esse bloco a gente não põe sozinha

(Evaristo, 2017, cited in Reference FrancoFranco, A., 2021, p. 35)

That image of Escrava Anastácia (she points to her), I have said many times that we know how to speak through the perforations of the mask, and sometimes we speak with such power that the mask is shattered. And I think that the shattering is our symbol, because our talk forces the mask. In all of our process to get here, it was necessary to put the carnival bloco on the street and this bloco we cannot do alone.

Conceição Evaristo evokes an image of speaking through the holes of the mask (i.e., she projects resistance as emerging through the gaps of power), but she also asserts that the embodied action of Black women can be so strong that the mask may be blown into pieces. The ancestor of Anielle and Marielle is here simultaneously tapping into the “gaps” of power (something that we may read through the lens of resignification in Reference ButlerButler (1997)) and suggesting strategies for completely destroying the mask that impedes Black women from speaking in politics (which differs from resignification). Evaristo also elaborates on embodied action and affects such as forceful (as in physically strong) action and collective joy. While speaking forcefully suggests “anger,” the metaphor of “colocar o bloco na rua” (“putting the carnival bloco on the street)” – a tradition that animates the most important street party in Brazil, where Blacks bear a remarkable presence – demonstrates that joy is also an important affect for creating another “presente.”

In addition to building on Conceição Evaristo’s account of the mask, Anielle elaborates at length on the affect of anger in her alternative to the work of resignification. In addition to ancestors like Evaristo, Anielle draws on Reference LordeAudre Lorde’s (1981) metadiscourse of anger. In Anielle’s (2021) words, “A raiva de que fala Audre Lorde, para mim, tem sido motor, combustível, tudo que me move e pulsa dentro de minha alma, além dos meus objetivos concretos” (“The rage that Audre Lorde talks about, for me, has been engine, fuel, all that drives me and pulses within my soul, beyond my concrete goals”) (p. 35). She points out that, for Black feminists, being “angry” is part of propelling action in the face of injustices experienced daily. At the same time, she also considers that this affect requires to be balanced with other strategic moves – which she summarizes with the phrase “equilíbrio entre a raiva e a razão é, então, um exercício diário” (“balancing anger and reason is, then, a daily exercise”) (p. 35).

Finally, Anielle provides further indexes of her critique of repetition as resignification as she agrees with Evaristo about “estilhaçar máscaras [como ato] necessário para nossa sobrevivência” (“shattering masks [as an act] necessary for our survival”) (p. 35), and brings to her work an image that Yhuri Cruz produced featuring Anastácia freed, unmasked, and surrounded by flowers (see Figure 5.3). Echoing the nós-por-nós (we for/by ourselves) stance whereby faveladas/os refuse to be represented or described by others (Reference Fabrício and MeloFabrício & Melo, 2020), Anielle says that the image of “Yhuri Cruz … reforça a ideia de que não há ninguém melhor do que nós mesmas para lutar e falar de nossas próprias feridas e conquistas” or “Yhuri Cruz … reinforces the idea that there is no one better than ourselves to fight and talk about our own wounds and achievements” (p. 36). Yhuri Cruz, Anielle, and Conceição Evaristo refuse to talk about Anastácia as enslaved and as impeded by the mask of silencing. They manifest not wishing to repeat the terms of the injury to resignify it – after all, they are “past the stage of waiting for someone to tell [them] when [they] can and cannot speak.” The image of Anastácia livre … estilhaçando as mordaças do silenciamento” or “free Anastácia … shattering the gags of silencing” (Reference FrancoFranco, A., 2021, p. 36) thus projects a novel habituation for speaking, and another form of educated hope. This novelty is embedded in a movement for political change of which Marielle is an important spectral agent. Fundamentally, Black women projecting change neither work alone nor ignore the strength and anger of the elders they bear with them. Comparing our data from the 2013 Circulando and Anielle’s 2021 dissertation, we may say that we see a shift in how hope is scaled – no longer through repeating injurious signs with the intent of resignifying them, but through pursuing other signs, other ways of speaking, and other forms of habituated action. In the next section, we will look at ways in which the nós-por-nós stance and novel forms of scaling hope in Complexo do Alemão have impacted the very frameworks of securitization in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.

Figure 5.3 Anastácia livre (Anastácia Freed).

by Yhuri Cruz

5.6 Coletivo Papo Reto and the Digitalization of Hope

In the previous sections, we pointed to a chronological change: Anielle in 2021 refused to iterate a symbol of silencing of Blacks, the Flanders Mask – a sign of trauma that André Constantine exhibited in a resignified form in 2013 at the Circulando. In this section, we build on a collective from Complexo do Alemão that emerged in 2014 and that has been another fundamental agent in the novel forms of scaling hope that we have been documenting in this book. Coletivo Papo Reto has marshaled affordances from digitalization and enregisterment to project hope collectively in Complexo do Alemão as practical reason against the police state, the “crossfire” between police and traffic, and the historical downgrading and criminalization of Blacks in Brazil. We begin this section by describing the participation of Raull Santiago, one of the creators of Coletivo Papo Reto, in a 2013 ten-week training course prior to the collective’s creation and that may be seen as a chain of participation frameworks in which the papo reto activist register (which we discussed in Chapter 4) was taught to activists, artists, and residents. This was also the event where Daniel met Raull. Promoted by the National Museum for Anthropology, Professor Adriana Facina, and NGO Raízes em Movimento, the 2013 training course “Vamos desenrolar” took place in Complexo do Alemão and included classes on public policy, health, racism, policing, income generation, and other fundamental topics for favela activism. “Vamos desenrolar” may be roughly translated as “Let’s unroll or disentangle the talk/the topics of interest.” Desenrolar in Portuguese is a slang term for sorting ideas out. Literally, desenrolar means unwinding something (e.g., a cord) that has been rolled up. So desenrolar in the training course puns on unwinding the line of talk (papo) just so it can be straight (reto).

In addition to actively participating in the workshop sessions, Raull performed a dramatic reading of a poem of his at the closing of the training course. Before reading the poem, Raull presented it as part of the “vivências que eu escrevo … fica meio na linha do RAP” (“life experiences that I write … it’s kind of along the lines of RAP”). Below is the poem that was read by Raull:

Excerpt 5.1 Raull Santiago’s Poem That Was Read at the “Vamos Desenrolar” Training Course, November 29, 2013

  • Sociedade de consumo ou cidade partida?

  • É dentro dessas leituras que eu início a rima.

  • Maravilhosa? Cês acham que tá, essa cidade?

  • Na moral, político é que faz publicidade.

  • Só aumenta, inventa, aliena e fode.

  • E manda UPP pra conter,

  • Pra acalmar dá BOPE.

  • Parece até George Orwell, 1984, como um grande irmão,

  • Cercando por todos os lados.

  • Mensageiro da chacina,

  • […]

  • Seu pensamento crítico rapidamente aliena

  • E dentro do desespero, cai na montagem da cena.

  • […]

  • Sai disso, tentar a sorte é o marketing do azar,

  • não é assim que tua vida vai mudar.

  • O papo é reto e fala de realidade,

  • mas se quer ficção boa, lê A Praga Escarlate.

  • Deu ruim, se liga no que eu vou te falar.

  • Deu ruim, não tenho papa na língua pra travar.

  • Não dá mais pra ser otário, alienado e bobo,

  • Aplaudindo o discurso de quem ferra o povo.

  • Nessa cidade sangrenta, violência dá ibope.

  • Dogmática e sofrida é a história do pobre.

  • Direitos humanos garantem o direito à vida,

  • segurança, educação […]

  • Consumer society or split city?

  • Within these readings I begin the rhyme

  • Wonderful? Do you think it is, this city?

  • Honestly, politicians are those who advertise

  • They only boost, invent, alienate and fuck up

  • And they send the “pacifying” police to contain,

  • To calm down, they give BOPE.

  • It’s like George Orwell’s 1984, like a big brother,

  • We’re surrounded from all sides.

  • The messenger of slaughter,

  • […]

  • Your critical thinking becomes alienated

  • Desperate, you fall into the montage of the scene.

  • […]

  • Get out, playing the lottery is marketing of bad luck,

  • this is not how your life will change.

  • The talk is straight and talks about reality, but for good fiction, read The Scarlet Plague.

  • If it’s bad, listen to what I’ll tell you.

  • It’s bad, I’m outspoken and my tongue won’t be stopped.

  • There is no use in being an idiot, alienated, and foolish,

  • Applauding the speech of those who hurt the people.

  • In this bloody city, violence is popular.

  • Dogmatic and painful is the story of the poor.

  • Human rights ensure the right to life,

  • safety, education […]

This poem spells out the pragmatics of papo reto. While we have concerned ourselves with detailing this pragmatics in Chapter 4, we believe it is important to unpack traces of it in this poem as this literacy event represents an early node in Raull’s sociolinguistic imaginations – which have been central not only for the digital and performative work of Coletivo Papo Reto but also for broader (trans)national cooperation in aid of resisting (in)securitization and necropolitics in favelas (see Reference Rampton, Silva and CharalambousRampton, Silva, & Charalambous, 2022). In poetic terms, Raull’s verses oppose a condition of repression and alienation to the liberating illocutionary force of papo reto and human rights. Denotationally, his verses tell that favela residents are being watched by Big Brother and the state’s security apparatuses; further, they are confined by the police and alienated by the “system.” As in Plato’s allegory of the cave, residents may “fall into the montage of the scene.” To see the actual scene – that is, the reality of social justice – the resident needs a papo reto.

Parsing the intertextual links between this poem and the discourse of other activists we have been concerned with (and who have collaborated with Raull) is important for displaying the rhizomatic work of resistance (Reference DeumertDeumert, 2019) to policies of (in)securitization in favelas and the effects of the “crossfire” between State and “crime” in these locations. As we have been documenting, the papo reto activist register is a crucial – but not the only – language game for projecting more livable forms of life and forms of talk in favelas. As enregisterment is about indexical signs in circulation, Raull’s outspokenness is clearly an interdiscursive response to the fear of speaking (about violence) that was brought up to Daniel several times in the field. Daniel repeatedly heard from other researchers in the field that many of their interlocutors refused to talk about the police or the drug traffic to them – a clear anticipation of potential violent effects tied to the potential entextualization of their talk (see Reference MenezesMenezes, 2015; Reference SavellSavell, 2021). Partly protected by the visibility that activists hold in the favela, but partly out of courage, Raull in these verses refuses to abide by the pragmatics of anticipation (Reference Machado da Silva and MenezesMachado da Silva and Menezes, 2019), whereby residents tend to opt for silence when the subject is armed violence, and decides instead to defiantly “raise his voice,” like Marielle, Anielle, and other activists. Along these lines, Raull metapragmatically comments that papo reto is unimpeded by fear: “If it’s bad, listen to what I’ll tell you / It’s bad, I’m outspoken and my tongue won’t be stopped.” Further, Raull’s verse “O papo é reto e fala de realidade” or “The talk is straight and talks about reality” embodies a sense of speaking directly and denotationally singling out objects of discourse related to tropes of social justice. Emically, this idea of “being direct” and “speaking the truth” oppose upscale registers, such as the language of State bureaucracy and “standard” Portuguese (especially as it is imagined and put to use as facilitating whites’ maintenance of privilege, see Reference Lopes and SilvaLopes & Silva, 2018; Reference Roth-GordonRoth-Gordon, 2017). As we saw in Chapter 4, other activists, such as Reference Souza and GiannottiRenata Souza (2016), describe papo reto along similar lines of directness and referential preference for objects of discourse related to racial and economic inequities (i.e., “truth”) – and in Renata’s case, through her current parliamentary action, papo reto is further embedded in institutional political talk. Like Marielle Franco, Raull suspends expectations of politeness and, before an otherwise formal situation with an audience that included nonfavela residents and activists, partially unknown to him, says that politicians only “aumenta[m], inventa[m], aliena[m] e fode[m]” or “boost, invent, alienate and fuck up.” The similarities between Raull and other activists’ renditions of papo reto are as much a fact of interdiscursivity as they point to the “coherence of indexical and other compatible signs one with another in the flow of discourse,” a defining characteristic of enregisterment for Reference Silverstein and CouplandSilverstein (2016, p. 38).

Reference Silverstein and CouplandSilverstein’s (2016) remark about the coherence of indexical signs in the flow of discourse reminds us of the rhizomatic and networked dimension of enregisterment. Indeed, we have tried to show above how Raull’s words are also the words of others (see Reference BaumanBauman, 2004). Yet in line with the diachronic shift that we discussed earlier in this chapter, the emergence of Coletivo Papo Reto points to another aggregate and networked change we have noted in grassroots activism in Rio de Janeiro. We refer to the digital dimension of activism, which has enabled faveladas/os with affordances that have been consequential for identity politics and (in)securitization. To tailor digital and enregistered affordances into advancing a human rights agenda, denouncing police abuses and producing data about shootings, in 2014, Raull partnered with other activists, including Raphael Calazans, Renata Trajano, and Thainã Medeiros, whom we engaged in dialogue with in this book, and create the Coletivo Papo Reto. Figure 5.4 displays some of the members of the collective. Clockwise from top left are: Lana Souza, Raull Santiago, Renata Trajano, Thainã Medeiros, Ananda Trajano, and Bento Fábio. At the center of the image, the caption reads, “Quem faz o papo reto acontecer,” or “Who makes the straight talk happen.” Interestingly, in this image, the activists are wearing a t-shirt with a dictionary entry (created by the collective) about the papo reto register. Described as “gíria popular” (popular slang), the parodic dictionary entry taps into a prototypical genre of language standardization and defines papo reto along lines that include “aquele aquela que se posiciona de maneira objetiva, … atitude de quem não enrola … [e] aqueles e aquelas que não são fãs de canalhas” or “A person who positions himself or herself objectively … an attitude of someone who doesn’t deceive … Those who are not fans of scoundrels.”

Figure 5.4 “Quem faz o papo reto acontecer (Who Makes the Straight Talk Happen).”

We now turn to an excerpt of a talk by Raull at the 2019 Perifa Talks – an event dedicated to income generation, political organization, and cultural production in peripheries promoted by Agencia Solano Trindade and Radio Mixtura in São Paulo – that unpacks the formation of Coletivo Papo Reto. This festival took place in Campo Limpo, a peripheral district in São Paulo, and therefore Raull was speaking to a public that included faveladas/os. Evident in Raull’s speech is the diachronic change in activism facilitated by digitalization:

As Raull explains, the Coletivo Papo Reto emerges in 2014 with an agenda of counter-securitization – tactics of resistance and contestation that oppose the logic of securitization as exceptional use of force and surveillance justified by the alleged threat of perceived “enemies” (Reference Fridolfson and ElanderFridolfson & Elander, 2021; Reference Rampton, Silva and CharalambousRampton, Silva, & Charalambous, 2022). Reference NemerDavid Nemer (2022) has written, in Technology of the Oppressed: Inequity and the Digital Mundane in the Favelas of Brazil, how faveladas/os from the “Território do Bem” or “Territory of Good” in Vitória utilize digital tools, whether computers in LAN houses or personal mobile devices, to “render livable the extremely inequitable and uncertain technological environments they find themselves in” (p. 51). In our case, we are interested in how faveladas/os appropriate digital resources to counter-securitize the favela towards human rights – the Coletivo Papo Reto, for one, has devised a strategy lying at the nexus of language ideology, digitalization and resistance to security as exception. In Excerpt 5.2, Raull first formulates a critique of Rio de Janeiro’s security policy as one that is based on producing “enemies” – faveladas/os, Blacks, the poor, and so on. He simultaneously addresses the basic violation of human rights in Rio’s securitization – that is, faveladas/os “are not include[d in Rio’s security] as people who have the right to the guarantee of security” – and the question of private interests in policies such as “pacification,” which included business interests ahead of the 2013–2016 mega-events which we discussed above. The collective’s main rationale to counter (in)securitization based on enmity, human rights violations and transnational business has been to tailor digital affordances and language use itself. Raull thus points out that “analogical” protests (that is, protests before the popularization of smartphones) against police brutality had been framed by the media as traffic-sponsored manifestations. Access to digital technologies, we want to emphasize, indicates an important shift in activism. And while sociolinguists, political scientists, and other analysts point out that digital technologies have been also instrumental to far-right political groups, who harness digital affordances to challenge democracies worldwide (Reference BlommaertBlommaert, 2019; Reference CesarinoCesarino, 2020, Reference Carmo2022; Reference Cesarino and NardelliCesarino & Nardelli, 2021; Reference MalyMaly, 2019; Reference Stolee and CatonStolee & Caton, 2018), we believe that our documenting in this book of the use of digital technologies by favela activists, including Mariluce and Kleber (Chapter 4) and Coletivo Papo Reto, points to digital action as also being fundamental for the grassroots advancing of human rights. We may say that life at the online-offline nexus (Reference BlommaertBlommaert, 2019) is a field of disputes. Thus, in Raull’s terms, before their having access to digital gadgets and especially their work in organizing social media messenger groups to circulate information and visual evidence about violence in the community, the main authoritative renditions of their manifestations were the corporate media and the police’s: “the press would come, and say that the protest was orchestrated by organized crime, the police were the only final voice to speak about that moment, it was never our voice as the final voice, as the central voice of something, and nothing worked out.” Yet the Internet and digital affordances (“a good cell phone”) have helped activists countering the mischaracterization of their political action. Fundamentally, Raull explains that they have used digital technologies to “record [police abuse] as much as possible, so we got together and started to monitor, let’s follow the violence, let’s follow how this happens inside Complexo do Alemão.” In addition to their digital monitoring of violence, the Coletivo calibrated papo reto as an authoritative arena for the nós-por-nós (we by/for ourselves) stance that has been emerging in favelas.

Excerpt 5.2 Raull Santiago Speaking at Perifa Fest, São Paulo, December 14, 2019

a principal política pública que chega para nós, o amplo investimento ainda é o da violência contra o nosso povo vindo como discurso de política de segurança, uma segurança pública que não inclui a nós moradores e moradoras de favelas como pessoas que têm o direito à garantia de segurança mas são vistos como inimigos de uma ideia de segurança pública que na prática é privada (.) tem quem paga (.) e aí nessas construções eu comecei a perceber que (.) a violência só crescia no Complexo do Alemão (.) por mais que a gente tentava denunciar, a gente era criminalizado (.) se as pessoas se juntavam para fazer um protesto em uma via de acesso a- a- (.) a imprensa vinha, discursava que aquele protesto era a mando do crime organizado, a polícia era a única voz final a falar sobre aquele momento, nunca era a nossa voz como a voz final, como a voz central de algo, e aí nada dava certo (.) só que depois quando a gente começou acessar internet e ter a possibilidade de ter melhores equipamentos, como um bom celular, eu comecei a tentar registrar isso o máximo possível, então a gente se juntou e começou a monitorar, vamo acompanhar a violência, vamo acompanhar como isso acontece dentro do Complexo do Alemão (…) nesse processo de tentar acompanhar a violência, surge esse grupo de pessoas aqui, são uns projetos que eu faço parte que se chama Coletivo Papo Reto (.) o Coletivo Papo Reto ele surge no Complexo do Alemão com intuito de (.) ser papo reto, ou seja, falar de violência, falar que a gente vive de nós para nós primeiramente, e depois de nós para fora, ou seja, organizar as pessoas a não aceitarem que a principal política pública pro preto pro pobre pro favelado pra pessoa que vive na nossa realidade seja a violência do Estado como a regra

the main public policy that comes to us, the main investment is still violence against our people, coming as a security policy discourse, a public security that doesn’t include us, favela residents, as people who have the right to the guarantee of security, but are seen as enemies of an idea of public security that in practice is private (.) with someone paying for it (.) and then, in these constructions, I began to notice that (.) violence was only growing in Complexo do Alemão (.) no matter how hard we tried to denounce it, we were criminalized (.) if people got together to make a protest in an access road to- to- (.) the press would come, and say that the protest was orchestrated by organized crime, the police were the only final voice to speak about that moment, it was never our voice as the final voice, as the central voice of something, and nothing worked out (.) but then, when we started to have access to the internet and to have the possibility to have better equipment, like a good cell phone, I started to try to record this as much as possible, so we got together and started to monitor, let’s follow the violence, let’s follow how this happens inside Complexo do Alemão … in this process of trying to accompany the violence, this group of people emerges here, these are some projects that I am part of that are called Coletivo Papo Reto (.) the Coletivo Papo Reto emerged in the Complexo do Alemão with the intention of (.) being papo reto (straight talk), that is, to talk about violence, to talk about how we live from us to ourselves first, and then from us to the outside, that is, to try to organize people to not accept that the main public policy for the Blacks, for the poor, for favela residents, for the people that live in our reality, is state violence as the rule

As we are concerned in this chapter with the practice of scaling, it is important to note that the Coletivo Papo Reto’s monitoring of violence in Complexo do Alemão (i.e., When and where are shootings happening? Are they originated by the police or drug traffic? What are the violations of human rights at stake? etc.) was further rendered into a multilayered influence in the debate on public security in Rio de Janeiro. First, an initial dimension of their collecting of evidence and data about shootings was within the community itself. To map shootings in Complexo do Alemão, the collective strategically created social media messenger groups with up to eighty participants – some of them recurring in different groups, to facilitate the spread of information. Thus, elsewhere in his talk at Perifa Fest, Raull explains: “if in one of the groups, a person says, ‘Oh, there is a shooting in Alvorada’, we immediately go to other groups: ‘Hey, did anyone hear a shooting?’, and someone says, ‘Oh, I heard, it’s here in Alvorada in that corner’ … We take this information, go to Facebook and post it, ‘Hey everybody, shots are being fired in Alvorada.’” This dynamic organization of groups allows for an effective geographical coverage of live information about shootings in Complexo do Alemão, and provides several fact-checking possibilities. Second, Raull and the other activists noted that they had enough data on shootings and police raids that helped them “pautar a política pública [de segurança] … lá no batalhão e no político” (“set the agenda of the public policy [of security] … at the battalion and among politicians”). Raull exemplifies that with the data that they were able to gather over a course of months, they could eventually “ir no batalhão e ir lá no político e dizer, por que tá tendo operação 7 horas da manhã? o que que isso constrói? você sabia que não teve aula hoje? você sabia que acertou transformador? o comércio não pôde abrir e perdeu o seu produto?” (“go to the battalion and the politician and ask: Why is there a raid at 7am? What is the benefit of this? Did you know that there was no class today? Did you hear that [the shots] hit the transformer? That local trading could not open and their produce got rotten”)? Third, Raull scales up the reach of their digital action – beyond the battalion in the neighborhood area – into influencing the agenda of public security. In his words:

Excerpt 5.3 Raull Santiago Speaking at Perifa Fest, São Paulo, December 14, 2019

porque pela primeira vez quando a gente começou a divulgar essas imagens, a gente conseguiu pautar não só o significado de segurança pública no Rio de Janeiro (.) mas também o significado da Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, que era vendido pro mundo e para o restante do Brasil (.) como a solução da segurança do nosso país (.) só que uma segurança de fora para dentro, a militarização da pobreza e o controle violento como política pública

because for the first time when we started to publicize these images, we managed to influence the agenda not only about the meaning of public security in Rio de Janeiro (.) but also the meaning of the Pacification Police Unit that was sold to the world and to the rest of Brazil (.) as the solution to our country’s security (.) but a security from the outside in, the militarization of poverty and violent control as public policy

Raull’s claim about the influence of a favela collective on security policy is telling. Obviously, triangulating his narrative and situating it in a broader field of disputes is necessary. Hence, it is important to be mindful that in the years that Bolsonaro led the federal executive (2019–2022) and Bolsonarist governors Wilson Witzel (2019–2020) and Claudio Castro (2020–present) administered Rio de Janeiro, the field of security has been increasingly radicalized toward penal populism, rising police violence, and the strengthening of milícias (groups that Bolsonaro and his sons have always openly defended) as yet another agent challenging the government of peripheries. Nevertheless, the digital and enregistered action of activists and residents figures as an important counterpoint to this necropolitical scenario. The partnership of Coletivo Papo Reto with other collectives and institutions, including Witness, a New York City-based NGO invested in helping “human rights defenders use video to expose injustice” (Witness, 2021), has been fundamental in the Coletivo’s quest of advancing a more democratic agenda of security. Through its resources and networks, Witness has provided the Coletivo with “resources surrounding safety and security” of their members (Reference WitnessWitness, 2017, n.p.). Further, they have aided the connections between Papo Reto activists and “teams of allies including activists, public defenders, and lawyers, to critically consider how to use visual documentation for advocacy, protection, and evidence” (Reference WitnessWitness, 2017, n.p.).

Another activist who has helped “scaling up” these grassroots forms of mapping shootings and (in)security into broader arenas is Cecília Olliveira, a Black journalist working for the Intercept Brazil. In 2016, Cecília created the Fogo Cruzado (Crossfire) digital platform. Informally known as “Waze do pipoco” (the Bang Bang Waze), this digital app combines the digital affordances and sociolinguistic imaginations we have documented in this section with further resources for “enfrentar a violência armada, promover a transformação social e salvar vidas,” or “confronting armed violence, promoting social transformation and saving lives” (Reference CruzadoFogo Cruzado, 2022, n.p). Currently available in the cities of Recife and Rio de Janeiro, the Fogo Cruzado app allows users to insert information of shootings and other dimensions of armed violence, providing users with crucial information about insecurity throughout the city. It also provides experts and others with an open source database that has been more accurate than the data offered by official state agencies (Reference FilgueirasFilgueiras, 2017). During fieldwork, Daniel has met with Cecília in different activist circles, including the 2016 Circulando. We want to highlight that Cecília, herself a human rights activist, is in dialogue with these grassroots practices of mapping (in)security in the territory and sociolinguistically portraying favelas in more affirmative terms. While of course not all residents are “progressivists,” most of them have strategies for mapping (in)security in the territory, for instance by spreading rumors and using digital technologies (Reference MenezesMenezes, 2015). In explaining where the idea of the Fogo Cruzado app came from, Cecília says that it was a strategy by Complexo do Alemão residents that first prompted her to think of a systematic way to document shootings and other data on gun violence (see Reference FilgueirasFilgueiras, 2017). For example, in 2015, she noticed that while the Instituto de Segurança Pública (Public Security Institute), which collects the state crime data, did not have a systematic survey of shootings, the employees of a fast food eatery in Complexo do Alemão told her in an interview: “Today, there has been a hundred days without any shootings in Alemão.” Cecília discreetly inquired about how they had reached that number, and discovered “that they were doing a sort of informal count of confrontations in the favela, writing them down on a sheet of paper” (cited in Reference FilgueirasFigueiras, 2017). Cecília also soon began to follow reports of armed conflict like those of Coletivo Papo Reto on social media. Aided by institutions like Amnesty International and the Update Institute, Cecília repurposed these different methods of mapping security into a digital platform. In half a decade, the data gathered and analyzed by Fogo Cruzado has made the Institute an influential agent in the debate of public security in Brazil. Cecília and other members of Fogo Cruzado have been invited to discuss data on (in)security in different social spaces and institutions, including Brazil’s Supreme Court (see Supremo Tribunal Federal, 2021). In a moment of democratic and institutional collapse under Bolsonarism in Brazil, the sociolinguistic and political action of Cecília and the Fogo Cruzado team toward a more democratic policing and security policy has been all the more important. Further, the fact that Cecília scales the activism, forms of talk, and language ideologies of agents like Coletivo Papo Reto, Mariluce, Kleber, and other activists into broader digital and political arenas points to the efficacy and potential for change in the sociolinguistic struggle we have documented in this book.

5.7 Conclusion

In this chapter, we have described how favela activists and grassroots organizations have engaged in the practice of hope, that is, the semiotic work of situating despair as “background” or “condition to be acted upon” while reorienting communicative resources for building material conditions aimed at individual and collective flourishing. More specifically, we have focused on scaling hope as a pedagogical practice. Our case studies document how the three collectives that we more closely focus in this book – Instituto Raízes em Movimento, Instituto Marielle Franco, and Coletivo Papo Reto – produce participation frameworks where an educated and embodied hope is variously nurtured, inhabited, and projected. For instance, we looked at Circulando: Comunicação e Diálogo nas Favelas, an annual street fair and series of debates promoted by the Instituto Raízes em Movimento, as a key participation framework for the circulation of ideas and people in the favela. While opposing the police state and the police jargon circulando as an injunction against favelados/as congregating in the streets, Circulando gathers residents, activists, and visitors to advance alternative views of politics, culture, and art and calibrate authoritative forms of talk and regimes of language. We also compared the politics of resignification (Reference ButlerButler, 1997) – that is, the repetition of a sign against its original injurious purposes – in the 2013 Circulando and in Anielle’s master’s dissertation. Anielle rejects the use of an injurious image – the Flanders Mask or the mask of speechlessness – as iconic of the silencing of Blacks. If seen chronologically, the interval of 2013–2021 is indexical of important shifts in favela activism: Anielle’s rejection of resignification points to a critique to metadiscourses of survival and precarity, and the strengthening of metadiscourses of hope. Another major shift is conspicuous: the increasing digitalization of favela activism. We thus focused on Coletivo Papo Reto, a collective formed in 2014 by activists in Complexo do Alemão who harness affordances from digital technologies and the papo reto activist register in aid of using video, image, and data as counter-securitization while propelling a more affirmative view of Blacks and favela lifestyles. In short, the police state, the historic necropolitics targeting favelas, and the dispute between normative armed regimes (the State and “crime”) tend to render faveladas/os silent (Reference Machado da Silva and MenezesMachado da Silva & Menezes, 2019). Favela residents are therefore constantly “anticipating” (Reference MenezesMenezes, 2015) how to use their talk publicly due to the risk of “losing one’s life” – which appears to be at the core of Marielle Franco’s assassination. However, we have documented here how collectives like Coletivo Papo Reto, Instituto Marielle Franco, and Raízes em Movimento attempt to create enunciative conditions for fearless speech and for the chained authentication of the papo reto activist register – as a whole, these institutions also provide a network for ensuring that the papo (talk) of activists and residents is reto, straight to the point. Their networked, rhizomatic, and enregistered action has also been able to challenge a necropolitical security policy in one of the world’s most unequal countries.


1 “ … In that Empire, the Art of Cartography reached such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied a whole City, and the map of the Empire a whole Province. In the course of time, these Disproportionate Maps were found wanting, and the Colleges of Cartographers elevated a Map of the Empire that was of the same scale as the Empire and coincided with it point for point. Less Fond of the Study of Cartography, Subsequent Generations understood that such an expanded Map was Useless, and not without Irreverence they abandoned it to the Inclemencies of the Sun and of Winters. In the deserts of the West, tattered Ruins of the Map still abide, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in the whole Country there is no other relic of the Disciplines of Geography.” Jorge Luis Borges, “On the Exactitude of Science.”

2 We are referring, of course, to Reference BaudrillardBaudrillard’s (1994) description of Disneyland being “presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and the to the order of simulation” (p. 12).

3 Reference Heller and McElhinnyHeller and McEllhinny (2017) discuss the role of another material symbol of constraining speech, le symbole, used in France in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries “to stop children from speaking Breton, Occitan, or other regional varieties in class” (p. 94). The symbole was a wooden object shaped and sized like a clog, which could be wrapped in a rope and hung around the neck of the offending child. Like the Flanders Mask, the symbole had a function of censoring and “disciplining body, mind, and tongue” (p. 94). Heller and McElhinny use the symbole as a metaphor for linguistic disciplining within colonialism and nationalism.

Figure 0

Figure 5.1 Castigo de escravo (Punishment for Slaves) by Jacques Arago (1839).

Museu Afro Brasil (São Paulo).
Figure 1

Figure 5.2 André Constantine: Favela não se cala (Favela Does Not Shut Up).

Figure 2

Figure 5.3 Anastácia livre (Anastácia Freed).

by Yhuri Cruz
Figure 3

Figure 5.4 “Quem faz o papo reto acontecer (Who Makes the Straight Talk Happen).”

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  • Scaling Hope
  • Daniel N. Silva, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, Jerry Won Lee, University of California, Irvine
  • Book: Language as Hope
  • Online publication: 11 January 2024
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  • Scaling Hope
  • Daniel N. Silva, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, Jerry Won Lee, University of California, Irvine
  • Book: Language as Hope
  • Online publication: 11 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI:
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  • Scaling Hope
  • Daniel N. Silva, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, Jerry Won Lee, University of California, Irvine
  • Book: Language as Hope
  • Online publication: 11 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI:
Available formats