Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center
The Production of Urban "Knowledges:" The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro as Sites of Intervention

This field research project explores the interface between favelas, or shantytowns, and a range of state, civil-society, and private actors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. How does residents' knowledge figure into that of experts? How do these brokers translate knowledge into politics? How do representations of favelas figure into a vision of Rio and cities more generally? The two phases of my research are trans-regional in different, complementary ways. The first phase, while intensively situated in place, aims nonetheless to speak to how local experience becomes a transnational, and often commodified, form of knowledge. I will learn the rules and imaginative contours of a role-playing game enacted by favela children in a miniature world of their own making. In so doing, I may better evaluate the interface between their experiences and the representations that NGO workers, visual media producers, and tourists construct of them. In the second phase, my work will center on knowledge transmission in a transnational context. The Favela-Bairro slum-upgrading project involves a massive production of knowledge about favelas, but I will suggest that this expertise does not travel exclusively 'up' the bureaucratic hierarchy to the project's patron sponsor, the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. Instead, I will trace the relational linkages and disjunctures in an abandoned venture between a Rio architect and developers in Dharavi, the largest slum in Mumbai. The objective of this research is to explore the gaps and unrealized within the process of knowledge circulation and thereby unsettle normative assumptions about transnationalization as a fluid and inevitable progression towards integration. Taken together, the two components of my research will problematize and seek to temper the increasingly declarative tones of both alarmist and rehabilitative discourses about urban slums today.