The conflict of middle classes in the Brazilian youth-led protests

Text originally published in Finnish in August, 2013 at the Nuorisotutkimus lehti (3/2013). 

Last June citizens formed the biggest mass demonstrations of Brazil since the end of dictatorship in 1985. Who were the protesters? The consensus between Brazilian and foreign analysts points to the middle class youth. This explanation is problematic. Indeed it is true that most on the streets were young people who had never protested on the streets before. They were mobilized on social networks online to get off the chair and go to the streets with the hope of changing a highly corrupt and unfair country. But the emphasis on middle class is too simplistic.

I contend that characterizing the Brazilian protests solely as the reaction of an apparently homogenous middle class youth gives a wrong sense of unity to a very diverse and conflicting movement. This is the impression I got during my research fieldwork in Rio. I had the chance of looking at the birth, growth and fragmentation of the demonstrations by observing the participation of young activists from favelas (Brazilian kinds of slums) on the protests.

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What a strike in Rio tells about us as people

(originally posted as a Facebook status update in 28/02/2014)

The other day, in a chat with a photojournalist about human rights violations in Rio, I argued that the problem in the city is not FIFA or IOC, but ourselves as people. This photo album I share illustrates the point I made in that talk.

I told her that I believe we Brazilians (not only the elites) do not often care about what happens inside favelas (our kinds of slums). That is why the evictions, the murders, the drug trade and the low living conditions have persisted for over a century since the first favela was built. As long as those problems do not affect us non-favela dwellers, we don’t care.

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