Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

Kira van Lil

Second Advisor

James Córdova

Third Advisor

Kirk Ambrose


This paper aims to further interrogate the already precarious position of Brazil's favelas, or informal squatter communities. Due to Rio de Janeiro's role as the host of the 2016 Olympics and 2014 FIFA World Cup, the city government has been forced to rethink their attitudes towards favelas. This thesis claims that arts-based projects in the favelas exist in and through states of uncertainty, which is elucidated by the fact that the communities themselves exist in states of uncertainty due to police occupations and government sponsored upgrading programs that aim to make the favelas more palatable to the communities' international and local critics. While favelas are normally considered dystopias, I claim that they are critical utopias that both critique existing realities and offer alternatives and possibilities through which diverse people can comfortably co-exist. My discussion focuses on public projects that incorporate participation, community building, and placemaking in an attempt to legitimize auto-construction and defend against displacement. Throughout my discussion, I stress that the affective possibilities of socially engaged projects in the favelas emerge from processes of self-representation, and the issue of who is operating or initiating these projects falls second to the matter of who is speaking.