A visual critical ethnography of youth develoment in a Rio de Janeiro favela

Bryn E Hafemeister, Florida International University


Favelas are Brazilian informal housing settlements that are areas of concentrated poverty. In Rio de Janeiro, favelas are perceived as areas of heightened criminal activity and violence, and residents experience discrimination, and little access to quality education and employment opportunities. In this context, hundreds of non-formal educational arts and leisure programs work to build the self-esteem and identity of youth in Rio's favelas as a way of preventing the youth from negative local influences. The Morrinho organization, located in the Pereira da Silva favela in Rio, uses art as a way for the local male youth to communicate their lived reality. This study used a visual critical ethnographic methodology to describe the way in which the Morrinho participants interpret living in a favela. Seventeen semi-structured interviews with young men aged 15 to 29, the feature-length documentary film on the organization, 206 researcher produced documentary style photographs of the Morrinho artwork, and the researcher's field notes were analyzed. Truth claims, ways of seeing as communicated through words and actions, were induced through a cyclical process of reconstructive horizon analysis that incorporated the societal context and critical theory. The participants communicated their concerns about life in a favela; however, they did not describe their societal positions in terms of complete marginalization. They named multiple benefits of living in Pereira da Silva, discussed positive and negative experiences in school, and described ways they circumvented discrimination. Morrinho as an organization was described as an enthralling game and a social project that benefited dozens of local youth. Character development was a valuable result of participation at Morrinho. The Morrinho artwork communicates a nuanced vision of both benevolent and violent social actors, and counters the overwhelmingly negative dominant characterization of Rio de Janeiro's favelas. This study has implications for an inclusive critical pedagogy and the use of art as a means to facilitate a transformative education. Further research is recommended to explore terminology used to refer to favelas, and perceptions that favela residents have of their experiences in public education.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Latin American Studies|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Hafemeister, Bryn E, "A visual critical ethnography of youth develoment in a Rio de Janeiro favela" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3632523.