Criminalized Governance: Gangs Rule in Rio

October 17, 2023 - 4:00 pm

Skylight Room
The Graduate Center, CUNY

For more than four decades, drug trafficking gangs have monopolized violence and engaged in various forms of governance across hundreds of favelas (informal neighborhoods) in Rio de Janeiro. Yet these relationships vary considerably across space and time. Some gangs have developed responsive relations with local populations by resolving disputes, stimulating the local economy, and providing various forms of recreation. Other gangs have engaged in more coercive and violent behavior while offering residents few benefits. What accounts for this variation? In this talk, based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in several gang-controlled territories, I theorize how criminalized governance outcomes are produced by dynamic and repeated interactions between gang members and residents within specific security environments.


Nicholas Barnes (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin–Madison) is a Lecturer in the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews and affiliated faculty at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. He was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He has conducted multiple years of fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and is currently working on a book project about how and why gangs govern these communities. His academic work has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Perspectives on Politics, Current Sociology, Latin American Research Review, Civil Wars, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.


Moderator: Desmond Arias, Bildner Center/Graduate Center, CUNY

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