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Gendered meanings and everyday experiences of violence in urban Brazil

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Violent acts are not random, but are infused with meaning: those intended by the perpetrators and those ascribed by others. This article explores how dominant gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro attempt to manipulate the meanings of violence to maintain their control of territory, presenting themselves as protectors of the community. Gangs impose violent punishment on residents who have breached their rules and behavioural norms. The messages they send out regarding the (un)acceptability of violence against women is highly ambiguous, however, which reduces women's options and increases levels of insecurity. Despite the ambiguity and unpredictability of gang rule, residents refrain from challenging gang control, preferring to moderate their own daily routines as a means to feel secure in the face of high levels of insecurity.
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Keywords: castigo pandillero; domestic violence; gang punishment; geografía del miedo; geography of fear; meaning of violence; significado de la violencia; territorio; territory; urban violence; violencia doméstica; violencia urbana

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Global Development, School of Politics International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT, UK

Publication date: February 7, 2014

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