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Accepted paper:

Portarias (residential-checkpoints)


Susana Durão (UNICAMP (São Paulo, Brazil))

Paper short abstract:

In urban Brazil, a residential-checkpoint (portaria) is a post-colonial project. The widespread nature of this familiar spatial element is a way to understand modern securityscapes and a social order based on inequality and suspicion.

Paper long abstract:

To cross a portaria and pass through an armed or unarmed security checkpoint has become an extremely normal and daily experience for many urban Brazilians. In this paper, I argue that the widespread nature of this familiar spatial element is a way to understand modern securityscapes and the implementation of a social order based on inequality. Every single new real estate, being a vertical or a horizontal gate-keeping condominium, is built with a physical checkpoint. Portarias are social-technical global security assemblages that permit the maintenance of micro-governance of collective and domestic life in and of buildings and restricted access spaces. They also reveal the most massive trend of private security, which is in fact an extensive market for the security outsourcing, and a fertile terrain for labour conflicts. The ethnography of residential-checkpoints is one of the most powerful ways to understand the macro and micro dimensions of security and control present in social relations today. Not only walls, fences, and gates, but also residential checkpoints are central elements for projecting entire safe cities as they guarantee a security in motion (enabling the fluxes of capital, people, services, and objects). In my examination of the portaria, I give special attention to how cultural intimacy is permeated by a post-colonial violence, and how the political economy of surveillance is expressed into the individual body and in social-technical interactions. More than protection, residential checkpoints produce universes of social and racial suspicion.

panel P116
The Future in Security: ethnographies of security at the edge of tomorrow [Anthropology of Security Network, ASN]