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Pixação: the criminalization and commodification of subcultural struggle in urban Brazil

Gil Larruscahim, Paula (2018) Pixação: the criminalization and commodification of subcultural struggle in urban Brazil. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,.

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In July 2014, two pixadores were murdered by military police officers in São Paulo, Brazil, while they were trying to perform pixação in a residential building. The doorman trapped Ailton and Alex on the top of the building and called police, saying that he suspected a robbery. Police officers came in, and Alex and Ailton were dead a few minutes later. At the end of the same year, the film Pixadores was launched at European film festivals. It won the award for best film at the One World film festival in Romania and the best direction award at the Aubagne Film Festival in France. Pixação emerged as a subculture during the mid-1980s in São Paulo. Most pixadores are men who come from the peripheries of this megalopolis. They paint their signatures (pixos) and the name of their crews using an unintelligible Arabic-gothic calligraphy, in black latex ink or with spraypaint cans, across the São Paulo cityscape. Pixação has never had a comfortable relationship with the authorities and activities related to it have been increasingly criminalized over the decades. While pixadores have been drawing increasing attention from both the market and international media, including being portrayed in the movie mentioned above, pixadores continue to be criminalized, prosecuted and even tortured and murdered by the police. In Brazil, the criminalization of pixação is based on its opposition with graffiti, whick a criminal law considers as art. The novelty and relevance of this study lies in its criminological examination of pixação subculture. It explores how pixadores experience and perceive the relationship between the criminalization of pixação and the specific issues that they confront within their social and cultural context, to examine the extent to which these perceptions and experiences are transformed into practices of resistance against these problems. Ethnographic fieldwork took place mainly in São Paulo between September 2013 and July 2014. This study analyzes pixação primarily through the lenses of critical and cultural criminology, and also makes connections with urban studies and social movement theory. Contributing to the current state of knowledge on pixação, one of the key findings of this research is that the that the primary criminalization of pixação, that is, being framed as crime in opposition to graffiti in a specific legal act, has actually helped to legitimate an extant and already disruptive police practice, secondary criminalization, as well as extrajudicial punishments completely outside of legal parameters and even frameworks of basic human rights. This research also suggests that socio-spatial segregation in São Paulo plays an important role in the rise of pixação, and that pixadores also engage in pixação as a way to overcome this segregation. Another key finding is that pixadores have recently started to transform their subcultural dynamics into political action. Finally, this research suggests that criminalization and commodification should be considered as interwoven processes, especially in the neoliberal era. For that matter, the research presented here demonstrates that commodification does not necessarily lead to the neutralization of the transgressive elements of resistant subcultures.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Uncontrolled keywords: Criminology, Criminalisation, Transgressions, Graffiti, Pixação, Subcultures, Socio-Spacial Segregation, Resistance, Commodification
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2018 11:12 UTC
Last Modified: 30 May 2019 08:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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