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.
- The Atlantic World
- The Anthropology of Play
“What does poverty feel like? Urban inequality and the politics of sensation.” 2018. Urban Studies. Co-authored with Rivke Jaffe, Eveline Dürr, Gareth A. Jones, Alana Osbourne, and Barbara Vodopivec. (forthcoming)
“A Favela That Yields Fruit: Community-Based Tour Guides as Brokers in the Political Economy of Cultural Difference.” 2018. Space and Culture. (forthcoming)
“Favela in Replica: Iterations and Itineraries of a Miniature City.” 2016. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 20(3): 39-60.
“Ludic Maps and Capitalist Spectacle in Rio de Janeiro.” 2015. Geoforum Special Issue: Spectacle Cities, 65: 421-430.
“Monitored Confinement and Rule by Philanthropy in Rio de Janeiro and Baltimore.” 2018. In: “Confinement, Cauterization, and Antipolitics in the Americas.” eds. Curtis, Jennifer and Irwin, Randi. PoLAR: Political & Legal Anthropology Review, Speaking Justice to Power series.
“Overcharged: Notes on a Favela Fridge Swap.”In: "Our Lives with Electric Things." 2017. eds. Cross, Jamie, Abram, Simone, Anusas, Mike and Schick, Lea. Cultural Anthropology, Theorizing the Contemporary series.
“Santa Cruz Visible: Unitary Urban Research and Design of Community Urban Action Plan.” 2013. Co-edited with Quilian Riano. Medellín studio, Design and Urban Ecologies Program, Parsons The New School for Design.
“Art of the Conference Paper.” 2010. Inside Higher Ed. 3 November.
“Urban Anthropology.” 2010. Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 840-844.
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