BLACK CULTURAL POLITICS: TRANSFORMING IDENTITIES IN THE PERIPHERY OF SÃO PAULO

Presented at the International Conference Cross-disciplinary Approaches to Urban Space, University of Florence, Italy, June 2018.

Media’s symbolic violence has for decades associated the culture of the peripheries of São Paulo with poverty, violence, and segregation. Against this politics of representation, new generations born in the peripheries and formed through intercultural encounters have developed alternative narratives. While in the 1980s their parents equated housing and infrastructure provisioning with the right to the city, these youths believe that cultural politics is at the core of city making. For them, the culture of the peripheries fosters belonging and shared values, grounded on networks of solidarity and resilience developed under conditions of social inequalities.

My intervention investigates emerging urban identities of young adults operating in the Northern periphery of São Paulo: First, street artists (rappers and graffiti artists), whose accounts stand against working-class exploitation and alienation, class and race segregation. They perform visual, bodily, audiovisual, and popular culture, primarily in public spaces. Second, urban farmers and educators who challenge capitalistic modes of food production and consumption through diffuse urban orchards and pedagogic workshops. Third, journalists who highlight the vitality and lively aesthetics of everyday life in the peripheries, rather than poverty and urban degradation. Within these groups, poor, black, and queer youths express the intersectional dimension of their identities.