‘Favela reality tours’ in Brazil

“In the 1990s and 2000s, favela tours took on a mission of education and community service that aimed at demonstrating the ‘reality’ of the favela and countering the prejudice of the media. Enterprises such as Jeep Tours and Favela Reality Tours emphasized and idealized the safety and diversity within favelas. The guides insisted that favelas were the safest place in the city. The typical favela tour worked to erase the boundaries between the elite visitor and the shantytown resident by insisting on the sameness of lifestyle. Favelados were hardworking, television watching, morally up-right citizens who aspired to be and often achieved the dream of middle-class status. But this sameness was performed in a realm that was externalized from the normal city by the militarization of the regime, the sexualization of trafficker masculinities, and the racialization of favelas as a whole.

Tours tend to portray the favela community as untainted by the paramilitary organizations that occupy them. Of course, paradoxically, it is precisely the violence of the police-narcotraffic war and its impact on racialized public paces that drew the tourists. Moreover, the vehicles that tourists took into the favelas theatricalized the dynamics of militarization and racialization. Foreign or elite Brazilian guests on favela tours were confined to large military jeeps, a spectacle resembling the entry of military vehicles into a bombed city at the end of World War Two. Favela tours insisted that the borders and differences between the favelados and the ‘normal’ population could and must be overcome, but the drama of the tour itself restaged and spotlighted the fear and exhalation of crossing a taboo frontier and entering an outlaw zone, all the while highlighting the dangerous nativeness of the local vs. the detached immunity of the international observer.”

– Paul Amar

‘The Security Archipelago


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