"Policing the zone of exception: female favela residents' experiences of police violence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Sociology


This project is an extension of research conducted in 2016, on which my MPhil dissertation (Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge) is based. Through further development of this work, I seek to gain a deeper understanding of the gendered manifestations of police violence experienced by socio-economically and politically marginalised women in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The issue of police violence towards marginalised social groups is currently subject to an unprecedented level of global attention within the public and academic spheres. From Chicago to Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, minorities are routinely being killed and incarcerated by the state, with relative legitimacy in the eyes of many (Wacquant, 2008). The profile of victims remains largely consistent across contexts: young, black men from low socio-economic backgrounds. As Amnesty International (2015) highlights, in the case of Rio de Janeiro 99.5% of those killed by the police are male, 70% are black, and 75% are aged between 15 and 29. Accordingly, research has overwhelmingly focussed on the male experience of lethal state violence, with little consideration of the alternative forms of police violence endured by women.
Research Questions
The 25 interviews I previously conducted shed light on the routine yet silenced practices of sexual, verbal and physical abuse of young female favela residents by military police officers. I now wish to further explore the ways in which women inhabit and experience state violence within marginalised communities. My principal goal is to explore how female favela residents perceive the forms of violence directed at women by police officers, with emphasis on their understandings of deservingness, predictability, and legitimacy. A secondary research question will assess the ways in which these perceptions shape female favela residents' behaviours, including the spaces and practices they associate with safety and protection.
These research questions hold importance in the academic sphere and beyond. The research findings have the potential to influence policy and public understanding of an issue that is currently under significant scrutiny. With the Black Lives Matter movement rapidly expanding, research into the complex nature of police violence towards marginalised women is of fundamental importance. In terms of academic significance, this research will serve to bridge a significant gap in the literature concerning police violence.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000649/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1925421 Studentship ES/P000649/1 01/10/2017 31/03/2025 Amy Jaffa