Coming of Age on the Streets of Rio

Butler, Udi Mandel. 2003. Coming of Age on the Streets of Rio. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis focuses on the lives of children, adolescents and young adults who live or have lived on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Fieldwork was conducted amongst these youngsters, and with workers in governmental and non-governmental agencies, asking why youngsters go to live on the street and why and how some eventually disengage from it. The thesis suggests that in their trajectories these youngsters experience and conceive of the city as a place of material, affective and symbolic resources with implications for their sense of self. Their ways of being in the city, are here contextualized within specific notions of risk which take into account the climate of fear, insecurity and scarcity of both the community of origin or the home and of the street. For many going to the street is narrated as a form of defiance against such conditions and as an aspiration for 'freedom'. The thesis explores how the 'freedom' of these youngsters is, both in the past and in the present, perceived as threatening by many segments of society, who come to regard these youngsters as not only at risk but also a risk. The view of youngsters on the street as a threat, has historically informed the genesis of the category of 'street children', this thesis traces the genealogy of this category in Brazil examining how it continues to affect the lives of those who live on the street. As well as being a source of stigma, the thesis also investigates how the category of 'street children' is defied, appropriated or else internalized in particular circumstances in the encounters between youngsters on the street with the rest of Rio's citizens. Also significant are the ways in which youngsters on the street aspire to the identity of being a citizen, of being just like anyone else. This thesis concerns itself not only with 'being' on the street but also with 'disengaging' from it, raising the question of what happens to these youngsters once they come of age, and as such fall outside the category of 'street children'. Significant in this is the network of institutions that provide services for youngsters and attempt to either remove them or persuade them to leave the street. Paulo Freire's pedagogy has had a great influence in this approach, offering a very different notion of 'freedom' or liberation from oppression to that articulated by youngsters on the street. The encounter between these two 'freedoms', this thesis reflects, provides insight into some of the reasons behind the failures and successes of these organizations and of individual youngsters to fulfill their desire to become a Brazilian citizen.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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street children, identity, youth, poverty; marginality, intra-city migration

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Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2020 11:29

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:37


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