The entangled city

Crime as urban fabric in São Paulo

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.

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