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The Gendered Division of Governing Labor: How Activism Thrives in Rio de Janeiro’s Gang Territories
Across Latin America, the rise of armed drug trafficking organizations and militarized policing in poor neighborhoods has created numerous obstacles for residents to mobilize for their citizenship rights. These challenges have been especially severe in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where gangs took over neighborhood associations, banned local elections, and assassinated activists who spoke out against them. How, then, do unarmed residents engage in political activism? In this talk, Dr. Anjuli Fahlberg draws on over four years of fieldwork in Rio’s favelas to examine the gendered constructs that shape political practices in gang territories. Her talk is based on her book, Activism under Fire: The Politics of Non-Violence in Rio de Janeiro’s Most Dangerous Favela (under contract, Oxford University Press). While a growing body of literature describes how violent governance is shaped by constructions of masculinity, Dr. Fahlberg brings attention to its binary opposite: feminized activism. By performing political femininity and sharing in the labor required to manage a community, local activist groups—led primarily by women—are able to create legitimate and protected spaces where they work to improve conditions in their community and advocate for broader forms of social and political change. The talk sheds light on a broader question: When we divert our lens away from the politics of masculinized violence to examine feminized non-violence, what other strategies of collective action might we find in Latin America’s conflict zones?

Nov 17, 2021 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Anjuli Fahlberg
Assistant Professor @Tufts University
Yanilda Gonzalez
Assistant Professor of Public Policy @Harvard Kennedy School