People as a Problem : A discourse analysis of the Favela residents´portrayal in Rio de Janeiro´s press
Many Latin American countries have during the past decades experienced an increase in violence (Howard et al 2007:716). The expansion of youth gangs and drug cartels in many countries of the region, and the states policy to fight these groups with a strong fist, has created a situation bearing the characteristics of an un-proclaimed civil war, that has come to affect all social classes (ibid:719). This expansion of the problem of violence, and the notion of insecurity it brings, has resulted in an increase in talk about the matter. As a way of trying to grasp control over a seemingly out of control issue, people automatically try to pin down characteristics of the potential perpetrators. Already socially excluded people and minorities on the bottom of the social hierarchy are the ones that have to suffer the stigmatization of criminality as they are seen as more prone to assort to crime and violence due to their economical desperate and unjust living situations (Caldeira 2000:92). These people that are the most exposed and vulnerable to the effects of economic development become personified with the problems that social exclusion and economic inequality creates, such as crime and violence (Howard et al 2007:716). As these groups of people become criminalized, the question of solving these issues becomes not a question of solving the root causes such as the economic inequalities, but the government’s ability to keep these social groups at bay (Caldeira 2000:90). An increase in violence and crime is therefore not perceived as a result of inequality in income and opportunity, but rather as the result of a weak state (ibid).
This aim of this research is to analyze how media discourses in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, contributes to the personification of the residents of the
Favelas as violent and criminal. This paper will follow the lines of critical discourse analysis theories, which argue that media discourses justify unequal power relations in society and enforces inequality and the social exclusion of minorities (Van Dijk 1988:25). It will also be argued that it is this stereotypical view of the residents of the Favela as inheritably criminal and violent which lead to dehumanization of them and the justification of the killings of civilians in these neighborhoods (Caldeira 2000:20; Goldstein 2003:205; Perlman 2010:172).
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