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Flying Down to Rio

March 25, 2009

ariasI’m off to Rio de Janeiro on Thursday… as most people will be aware, Rio is far a long way from the romantic Hollywood-generated image of sun-kissed decadence. It is perhaps the most extremely divided city in the world. The richest parts have a higher standard of living than almost anywhere else and the poorest parts barely cling to the hillsides and to any kind of an existence. I have been reading Enrique Desmond Arias’ enlightening Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro (amongst many other books) in preparation, and right on cue, a major drugs war has apparently broken out between trafficking gangs in the Copacabana area…

I am going to be interviewing state and community representatives, and carrying out mapping exercises to assess the state of surveillance and security in several different neighbourhoods of varying social classes. The drug war is making me a little nervous, but in many ways it is an ideal time to be asking the kinds of questions I need to ask. Of course reading a book like Arias’, you tend to get anthropology-envy, but I just have to remember that my study is a very different kind of research. I am still trying to get a feel for the kinds of indicators that would enable us to make serious comparisons between the intensities and forms of surveillance across cultures and nations – and I am still very much at the beginning of the project. Some of these indicators might seem common sense and obvious but some are not, and some may not even be in any way ‘measurable’…

My fantastic temporary Research Assistant is Paola Barreta Leblanc – she has created a mash-up of my current schedule here (it will get more complex!).

Wish me luck!

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