Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Society for Cultural Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
In 2009, hundreds of local residents packed the concrete futsal court of the favela Tijolão amid of hubbub of panic and confusion. Usually a dull and sparsely attended affair, this community meeting was intended to address the newly announced enforcement of building regulations from Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, part of an urban reform campaign bearing the moniker Shock of Order. The meeting produced remarkable effects. Everyone was to fill out a registration form in order to regularize urban services. In exchange for the potential new costs of paying for electricity and land titles, favela dwellers would become residents, with all the rights and responsibilities that status entails. With the documentation produced at the meeting, it was emphasized that residents would achieve a new legal status. The discussion devolved into murmuring among neighbors and conjecture about whether this or that construction would be deemed illegal, and thus forced to stop or be torn down. An anticipation that an impending visit from state officials that would surely be punitive bred overriding mood of paranoia and bewilderment. This paper discusses how the anticipation of a revanchist state—its present absence—itself produces not only conditions for the establishment of private property relations but also an affective surplus and creative techniques of dissimulation and gamesmanship. Skeptical favela residents reckoning with what they have to gain or lose opens toward an analysis of property not merely as condition for dispossession but as trap, as a game of capture situated in the dynamics of frontier capitalism.