Christian Laheij
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Counter- mapping the divided city
Topographies of violence and the religious imagination in urban Brazil
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There is a consensus among academics, activists and journalists that decades of urban violence in Brazil have resulted in entrenched residential segregation: whereas elites live in affluent walled enclaves and centrally located upper-class neighbourhoods, the urban poor are confined to overpopulated slums and the periphery of cities where living conditions are cramped and services lacking, and where they are subject to endless turf wars between heavily armed drug gangs, vigilantes, the army and police. It would be virtually impossible for residents to remap this spatial configuration, due to the lack of accountability of those involved in violence and their investment in its perpetuation. Following up on recent studies of urban violence which suggest that urban ecologies need to be understood as emergent, heterogeneous, context-dependent and socially constructed, this chapter challenges such static understandings of city-space in Brazil. Based on an ethnographic case study of a Catholic base community in the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, it explores how religious actors work to challenge established topographies of violence by furnishing alternative imaginaries. The chapter highlights the dynamic relationship between conceptions of space and time in structuring experiences of urban violence. Religion’s capacity for hope and remembrance reveals temporality to be a crucial axis of opposition to violence-driven processes of urban segregation, yet temporality itself is not static but co-evolves as violence becomes more entrenched.

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The spatiality and temporality of urban violence

Histories, rhythms and ruptures

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