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Hashtag favela: Instagram, space and identity in urban Brazil

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Instagram is a virtual, multi-authored platform that symbolizes geographic realities by allowing its users to capture time-and-space-specific characteristics through photographs or videos. As opposed to the selective reproduction of dominant discourses, Instagram users collaboratively produce multiple truths based on their own personal perceptions and experiences. Considering that favelas in Brazil are some of the most stigmatized, misrepresented and misunderstood places in the world, this article follows the term ‘favela’ (#favela) to better understand how it is being used by the masses in 2019. Ultimately, this article analyses the space and identity of ‘favelas’ in urban Brazil by dividing our findings into three separate categories: (1) ‘hashtag favela as advertising’, (2) ‘hashtag favela as tourism’ and (3) ‘hashtag favela as everyday’. We found that although Instagram promotes the ability of favela residents to represent themselves, #favela continues to be co-opted by outsiders. Interestingly, when the term is co-opted by outsiders, its meaning is transformed from a physical space or neighbourhood into one of the many types of commodities to be bought and sold.
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Keywords: Brazil; Instagram; community; favela; representation; social media; tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000122978753Auburn University, AL 2: 0000000119454190Smith College, MA

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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