Religious-Military Urbanism and the Popular Culture of Sovereignty

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Speaker : Martijn Oosterbaan (Utrecht University)

Title : Religious-Military Urbanism and the Popular Culture of Sovereignty

Abstract :

In this presentation, I reflect on the installment of Pacifying Police Units (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora), on Brazilian military interventions and on police operations in Rio de Janeiro. The material stems from my own fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro and from the collaboration with Dr. Carly Machado (Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro) and Professor Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam). This presentation engages with two contemporary scholarly discussions: one centered on the militarization of urban life and the other on postsecular urbanism. The main point of the presentation is that state security operations in the city recurrently make use of religious discourses, representations and actors to legitimize and enforce extraordinary police and military operations. This challenges secularist assumptions prevalent in much of the urban security literature. The material presented shows that governmental promises to regain sovereign control of ‘wild’ urban territories regularly lean on Biblical representations of divine intervention and on Pentecostal practices and institutions. The governmental recourse to lethal (and often extra-legal) violence exemplifies the permanence of the political theological at the heart of Brazilian democracy and points to a deeply problematic appearance of ‘armed religion’ at the hands of the Brazilian state.

Bio : 

Martijn Oosterbaan studied Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He acquired his PhD at the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, after which he obtained a postdoc position at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen. Since 2008, he works at the Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University. Martijn has published on religion, media and the city. His research focuses among other things on urban and religious transformations in Brazil in relation to (in)security and the widespread use of mass media and popular culture (carnival, telenovelas, superheroes). Currently, he is the PI of the ERC Consolidator research project: Sacralizing Security: Religion, Violence and Authority in Mega-Cities of the Global South.

  • When ?

Tuesday the 10 March 2020 from 5:00 pm till 7:00 pm

  • Where ?

ULB - Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (building S)

Room Janne - 15th floor

44 avenue Jeanne - 1050 Bruxelles

Photo : Police Officer Special Forces Battalion Rio de Janeiro (BOPE) - Fabiano Rocha