Article written by João Costa Vargas and 2009 DPDF State Violence Fellow Jamie Amparo Alves, featured in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Volume 33, No. 4:
This paper presents an intersectional analysis of police lethality in the city of São Paulo. We deploy the concept of geography of death to investigate the multi-layered aspects of state-sanctioned lethal violence perpetrated by, but not limited to, the police force. This entails a consideration of at least three types of factor: actual violent acts, their symbolic dimensions and the historical and structural conditions within which violence emerges. Based on official data from the Brazilian state we argue that there is a perverse correlation between vulnerability to death and new racial formations, as they intersect with social class, age, gender, and place. Thus, the distinctive social geographies of São Paulo not only provide the context, but also define the very nature, frequency and experience of police violence. Ultimately, we argue, police lethality is a manifestation of the police and the state’s complicity in reproducing boundaries of privilege and exclusion.