Youth, Music, and Agency: Undoing Race, Poverty and Violence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University
This work focuses on the intersection of youth, their music and their agency, all of which interact to shape identities and create social change in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Music as media activism serves as backdrop, narrative, response, and counterpoint rhythm to the interlocking systemic violence(s) affecting favela youth. Identity issues around race, poverty and violence are the central focus as Brazil's homicide rates are some of the highest in the world with much of it concentrated in Rio and perpetrated by the state against youth of color. In 1993 rampant violence reached a climax as poor black and brown youth were being murdered daily in Rio's streets. The city's image of paradise on earth, and Brazil's self-narrative of racial democracy were suffering. Musical genres of funk and hip-hop proliferated in Rio's favelas facilitating life stories told by youth of color. Lyrics of racism, chronic poverty and violence surfaced in resistance to imposed constructions of blackness, space, and worth. In dialogue and resistance, youth design alternative worldviews and identities while performing grassroots participatory citizenship. In these ways young people disrupt structural violence and re-work local and global identities.