City of God

Bulent Diken
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The paper addresses the paradoxical relationship between inclusion and exclusion by focusing on the favela and its representations. The film "City of God" opens amid a carnivalesque atmosphere, samba music is playing, the camera cuts from image to image, knives are being sharpened, chickens are slaughtered and grilled, huge amounts of hash and cocaine are being consumed — But then, all of a sudden, one chicken manages to escape the "party". The whole gang is now frantically chasing after the desperate runaway chicken, turning the chase itself into an instance of perverse enjoyment. Is the chicken going to manage to escape its fate of being slaughtered? This hopeless chicken living on borrowed time is an allegory for the f(l)ight for survival depicted in "City of God", Fernando Meirelles' film about Rio de Janeiro's most notorious favela, which resembles a space of absolute exclusion. The paper addresses the situation of the favela dweller as an instantiation of "homo sacer", the ultimate biopolitical subject whose life is stripped of cultural and political forms. The focus is on the socio-spatial mechanisms that immobilize the favela in which people lead a life in a permanent state of exception. To offer a systematic account of this immobilization the paper elaborates on the concepts of exception and camp. In this, favela life is periodised in three successive stages. The first is the "age of innocence", in which the law is operational despite being in crisis. In the second period, crime and perversion increase, but communal ties continue to exist. As sovereign, the gang establishes an order, which it is itself excepted from. When exception becomes the rule, "City of God" enters its third period. Now, ceasing to have any referent any longer, violence takes the form of a pure, naked violence; everybody becomes "homo sacer".

Keywords: Favela, Inclusion, Exclusion, Exception, Camp, (Re)presentation, Photography, Mobility
Stream: Politics of Diversity, Race and Racism, Identity, Belonging, Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Bulent Diken

Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

Ref: D05P0159