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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Urban poor

Third Advisor

Urban poor


Just as none of us is beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and canons but also about ideas, about forms, about images, and imaginings.

- Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism1

The map of Rio de Janeiro is in equal parts symbolic and defining. It is filled with the ocean-front neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema, whose beaches are as iconic as the Amazonian landmass that blankets over a third of the Brazilian state. And yet, less identifiable, if not invisible, are the blank swaths that mark the gaps between the sea and edging forest – indiscernible from empty space, with neither landmarks nor street names. These empty spots mark Rio de Janeiro’s densest neighborhoods. These are Brazil’s infamous favelas. With close to 3 million people in Rio de Janeiro living in the informal sector, Brazilian popular communities, or favelas, have blanketed the hilly roads of the city for decades, providing its inhabitants with some of the country’s most affordable housing.2