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Crime as urban fabric in São Paulo
Author: Gabriel Feltran

This book tells the story of the ‘world of crime’ in São Paulo. In so doing, it presents a new framework to understand urban conflict in many other contexts. Chapters are based on ethnographic fieldwork started in 1997, when Brazil's elites still hoped to achieve the integration of the country into a modern global order, and of the urban poor into a prosperous nation. Both integration projects placed their hopes in the city of São Paulo. The metropolitan region had grown in population from 2.6 million in 1950, to 12.5 million in 1980. This demographic explosion manifested in the rapid expansion of self-constructed favelas, clandestine subdivisions and working-class neighbourhoods. Besides migration, the central pillars for the occupation of these territories until the 1980s were factory work, the family and Catholic religiosity. These pillars have shifted radically since urbanisation. Schooling, access to services and urban infrastructure, although still precarious, have all grown considerably. Rural to urban migration slowed; there was a dramatic transition in popular religious practices and average fertility plummeted from 7.1 to 1.4 children per woman in just 40 years. Since then, two generations have been born and grown up in an urban world radically different from that in which their parents lived. However, it is the expansion of the ‘world of crime’ – a social universe and form of everyday authority established around global illegal markets that would most radically transform the social dynamics of the city.

On essence and deconstruction
Gabriel Feltran

This chapter presents the book’s analytical framework and analyses three micro-scenes of interaction, arguing that everyday life plays a critical role in the objectification of differentiation. With special focus on the third interaction, involving the representation of peripheries and the ‘world of crime’ in São Paulo, it discusses how difference operates when the marginals appear to be getting closer to the established middle classes. Native categories and analytical concepts are both understood here as intervals of plausible meaning, a formal structure where contents are always mutually situated and constructed within the normative ideal boundaries established by routine use. The ethnographic reflection on the three empirical situations gives rise to a broader interpretation of how the recent authoritarian wave in Brazil is based on the construction of ideal categories. The authoritarians rely on how gender and state, as well as race, religion, family, class, sexuality and crime are entangled to serve their national project. The aim is to debate how the contemporary social life flows intertwine the production of those ideals, and to reflect on how the aesthetic of their emergence in the quotidian impacts on the construction of the general public sphere.

in The entangled city
Gabriel Feltran

This chapter presents the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) in São Paulo. This criminal group rose to the position of legitimate normative regime among a minor but relevant part of the residents of the city outskirts. Mapping alternative ‘courts’ performed by criminals in São Paulo, in three different levels of conflict, including a ‘debate’ via cell phone conference in seven of São Paulo’s prisons, the chapter argues that these mechanisms are central factors explaining the drop in homicide rates in São Paulo during the 2000s. Claimed publicly by the state’s government and military police, these courts themselves became important sources of legitimacy for the PCC’s expansion in Brazil.

in The entangled city
The boundaries of the ‘world of crime’ in São Paulo
Gabriel Feltran

This chapter follows Pedro’s trajectory, which goes back and forth across the boundaries that circumscribe São Paulo’s ‘world of crime’. The young man describes violent persecutions, shootings and what he ought to do in many different situations, experiencing both sides of these boundaries. ‘Crime’ appears as a set of normative codes and social practices established primarily at the local level, around markets such as illegal drug trafficking, robbery and theft, yet equally established through family relations, gendered status, and through courage and respect. Based on São Paulo’s peripheries, transformations and Pedro’s narrative, I argue an interpretation of the expansion of ‘crime’ boundaries in recent decades, as well as the patterns of coexistence between crime and other normative legitimacies in the outskirts of the city.

in The entangled city
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Gabriel Feltran

This chapter focuses on a family story. Ivete’s family life guides us through a world where migration from Salvador meets hunger and the struggle for protection and social mobility in São Paulo. After following her family for fourteen years, the author shows how disjunctive patterns of understanding ‘crime’ and ‘work’ differ within the family as time has passed. Second and third generations split the family into two different social ascension projects: one where children work legally, and the other where the world of crime is seeing as a possibility. Capoeira, hairdressing and private security meet drug trafficking, robbery and incarceration at home. Money and violent deaths appear after some years of clash and association between brothers and sisters.

in The entangled city
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Gabriel Feltran

The ethnography presented here searches for the parameters of São Paulo’s contemporary urban order. The Introduction presents the main argument of the book, its methods and chronology of urban transformations in São Paulo which led to the emergence of the ‘world of crime’. The author argues in favour of understanding São Paulo’s urban conflict through the formal notion of normative regimes, in contrast to the view, dominant in the academic literature, which still presents ‘urban violence’ as the opposite of the ‘modern order’ or ‘democracy’. Historically, and the metropolis of São Paulo is exemplary in this regard, these notions have always been intrinsically related.

in The entangled city
Gabriel Feltran

This chapter argues that violence, and especially lethal violence, is strictly managed on the periphery of São Paulo. It argues against the idea of banalisation of violence in favelas, as its thesis is that there is strict control of the use of force in the favelas and neighbourhoods of São Paulo’s peripheries of . It presents three ethnographic situations of the ‘Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) era’ in which members of the ‘world of crime’ interact in a particular way with police officers and lawyers. The diverse normative repertoire of PCC’s practices is analysed vis-à-vis the state’s violence management tools, with which they coexist in the peripheral zones of São Paulo. Four dimensions are specifically analysed: (i) state justice; (ii) the court room justice of ‘crime’; (iii) the selective justice of the police; and (iv) divine justice. The ethnographic study shows how this repertoire divides different projects of regulation of violence in the city, which have given birth to the different normative regimes analysed in this book.

in The entangled city
São Paulo’s apparatus for homicide management
Gabriel Feltran

This chapter shows how, since the 1990s, the management of homicides in the state of São Paulo , has been carried out by at least two coexistent regimes of justice and security policies. These regimes can only be understood in their constitutive relationship. The author reviews the general lines of their development over two decades, from which have emerged the fundamental elements of São Paulo’s contemporary urban order. The chapter argues that state policies have offered best conditions for the current hegemony of Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) policies in the regulation of both homicides and illegal markets, inside both prisons and favelas. Many ethnographic situations exemplify the argument of São Paulo as an entangled city where urban conflict could be much better understood if it were theoretically reframed.

in The entangled city
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Gabriel Feltran

The conclusion argues that today Brazil’s urban peripheries have two dichotomous public façades: on the one hand, they are the cause of ‘urban violence’ that calls for more repression; on the other hand, they are the focus of the ‘national development’ project which would turn poor people into middle-class individuals. The idea of urban violence, as commonly perceived, has displaced the focus of the contemporary social question from ‘the worker’ to the ‘marginal people’. As a side effect, tensions between ‘crime’ and ‘state’ regimes have grown and their relationship has found a common basis in monetised markets. Money seems to mediate the relationship between forms of life which, from other perspectives – legal or moral – would be in radical alterity. Consumption emerges as a form of common life and mercantile expansion, above all, connecting legal and illegal markets and fostering urban violence that otherwise would have been under control, had those territories seen economic development. Religion, and especially Pentecostalism, emerges as a plausible source of mediation between the regimes.

in The entangled city