“Pedagogy of Conversion” in the Urban Margins: Pacification, Education, and the Struggle for Control in a Rio de Janeiro Favela
In this article, I make an empirical contribution to the scholarship on education in urban settings that are affected by militarized policing and illicit drug markets. I offer insights into the role education played in the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs), a pacification project in Rio de Janeiro favelas. Rio State authorities began to install UPPs in 2008 in an effort to regain control over favelas dominated by drug-trafficking groups and marked by high levels of violence. In this paper, which is based on an ethnographic case study I conducted between 2008 and 2015, I discuss the UPPs’ struggle to gain the allegiance of favela residents. I focus in particular on police involvement in public primary schools and nonformal education geared toward young children living in the favelas that were part of the UPP project. Looking at one primary question—How does pacification influence education and what does this mean for local perceptions of police?—I reveal how the UPPs brought on the further militarization of education in Rio’s favelas and show how paradoxical police practices in the urban margins may actually perpetuate the violence they are intended to combat.