Favela Funk – Ways of Being Young in the Urban Peripheries of Rio de Janeiro

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Abstract: During the last decades, funk music produced in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro has been travelling the world as a genre of contemporary cool. Construed as both hip and authentic and consumed globally, it has become a political and commercial asset in the nation’s rise to economic dominance and in Rio’s campaign to become a global city. In Brazil, however, favela funk draws the boundaries between the shanty towns of the urban margins, where it remains a social practice, and the state, by which it is condemned and sometimes prohibited for lyrics that allude to violence in an alleged glorification of gang power. This dissertation is an ethnographic inquiry into social life and power relations in one of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It tells the story of how a drug-dealing faction challenges the sovereignty of the state on its turf by means of both arms and the control and distribution of pleasure and fun. Funk, in this account, emerges as an immensely popular social practice and thus an instrument of drug-dealing power. By treating violence and the sexually explicit as both unifying and fragmenting in the social dynamics of this place, the dissertation uncovers the paths that favela youth tread in the context of severe poverty, vulnerability and limited access to state institutions and formal employment.