Civil society organisations and the production of socio-geographic space : the organisation of space in Brazilian favelas

da Silva Lacerda, Daniel and Dale, Karen and Thomas, Pete and Cooke, Bill (2016) Civil society organisations and the production of socio-geographic space : the organisation of space in Brazilian favelas. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Favelas (Brazilian urban slums) are territories riddled with immense contradictions and disputes. They are, often, the only available housing for poor people and are characterized by deprivation of state services. Despite their marginalization and the discourses of criminality associated with them, the poor living in favelas are recipients of many developmental initiatives. Such initiatives are largely mediated by various civil society organisations (CSOs), which have grown in number over time. This study discusses the case of a favela in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), which I call here Mucuripe. Mucuripe is located in a wealthy area of Rio and its population are mainly black working class people, who live in a culturally vibrant yet materially deprived territory, where the interplay of the police, drug dealers, and other CSOs suggest this is a disputed territory. The data for this thesis was collected using participant observation during fieldwork while I worked in two CSOs in Mucuripe for 10 weeks. This thesis interrogates how CSOs’ activities are conditioned by the social context of Mucuripe and how these CSOs are important in shaping this favela. It is informed by the works of Henri Lefebvre and Milton Santos. It contributes to the field of space and organisation which has, in recent decades, explored space beyond the idea of an empty container where artefacts, people and processes can exist. The thesis thus analyses not things in space but space itself (Lefebvre, 1991). Lefebvre has been very influential in organization studies, although the more politically engaged aspects of his theory remain largely under-theorised in the field. This thesis analyses the organization of space beyond the limits of CSOs as workplaces, and explores the historical and political elements of the production of space as central to CSOs’ activities in favelas. The results are presented in two parts. First, the ‘organising space’ is analysed through historical and political processes that affect the construction of material, social and cultural space in favelas. The thesis shows that rather than seeing territoriality as the portion of territory to be considered of exclusive influence, favela should be understood to consist of several overlapping territorialities. The clash between the local space, which is constructed historically, and the interventions hierarchically incorporated from the outside, reveal a selective integration with the formal city producing a contested space. Second, ‘the space of organisations’ is discussed through the different approaches adopted by CSOs in reproducing or resisting the reproduction of abstract space in the favela. It is informed by Santos’ idea of the mediating role of the ‘technique' (2006) in the transformation of space. Two main approaches are identified in the CSOs: they support the appropriation of space by leveraging the cultural skills and initiatives that exist in the territory, but they also fragment the territory by incorporating managerial techniques that favour the commodification and bureaucratization of everyday life. This study contributes to organisation studies in advancing the analysis of the relations between organisations and their surrounding space showing how the historical construction of their territory and contemporary events related to the political economy of organisational space construct the space across organisations. In addition, it shows that the available technical means are a key variable in distinguishing between the hierarchic fragmentation of space and the preservation of the organic social fabric when assessing the actions of CSOs.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? favelascivil societynonprofit organizationsspacebrazilorganisation studies ??
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11 Jan 2017 12:00
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:37