Alessandro Angelini

Assistant Professor

Mergenthaler 457
Mondays, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.


I study how building practices and cultural production shape political subjectivity in urban squatter settlements. My research in Brazil tracks how these environments become objects of material practice, technocratic knowledge, and artistic expression. I hold a Ph.D. in Anthropology from CUNY Graduate Center in 2013 and am completing a postdoctoral research project at the London School of Economics.

My first book project, titled Model Favela: Youth, Second Nature, and Rio de Janeiro, based on four years of ethnographic research, is about the social ordering of creativity. It analyzes an iconoclastic role-playing game in which Afro-Brazilian working-class male youth represent a dynamic but uneven cityscape in a hand-built model of Rio, constructed with painted bricks and found scraps. Through an up-close descriptive analysis of the relationship between play and ‘real life,’ the book examines the different ways social inequality is imagined and develops a parallel analytic, the inequality of imagination, where official models of technocratic and official knowledge are privileged over others deemed cultural products.

My postdoctoral work with the LSE forms part of a multilateral project on the commodification of urban poverty and violence across four cities in the Americas: Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Kingston, and New Orleans. I have studied emerging tensions concerning hospitality and tourism in militarily “pacified” favelas over 18 months in Rio, followed by five months exploring volunteerism and community rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.


I have begun research on Rio’s ‘Smarter Cities’ initiative, a digital dashboard for managing the city as a real-time flow of climate, crime, and traffic data, to investigate how information technology and remote sensing confront the geography of racial difference. Another project will examine diasporic African histories that shaped port cities since the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the lens of contemporary urban waterfront redevelopment.


My approach to teaching is much like my engagement with ethnography. In the classroom I promote collaborative and practical learning to support the conviction that knowledge be produced out of dialogue and always deserves to be understood in its full complexity.


"Overcharged: Notes on a Favela Fridge Swap.” Cultural Anthropology [forthcoming].

“Favela in Replica: Iterations and Itineraries of a Miniature City.” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 20(3): 39-60. (2016)

“Ludic Maps and Capitalist Spectacle in Rio de Janeiro.” Geoforum Special Issue: Spectacle Cities, 65: 421-430. (2015)