Greater Rio de Janeiro’s Baixada Fluminense Region Through the Eyes of Five Local Researchers

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What can academic production from a region like Greater Rio de Janeiro’s Baixada Fluminense tell us about the region itself? What concerns are born among young Baixada researchers and what do they hope to leave as their legacy? To respond to these questions and others, we selected a few studies about the region. The goal is to build a network of sources that empower the municipalities that comprise the Baixada from diverse perspectives and areas of knowledge.

The research studies and their authors were chosen based on highly democratic criteria, involving the location of these sources with the support of a social network. These include undergraduate theses, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations. These current and future publications, given that several are ongoing, will constitute part of a sort of theoretical mirror for the Baixada based on its daily life. Check out some of them below:

“Our Dead Have Mothers: An Analysis of the Mothers and Family Members of Victims of Violence in the Baixada Fluminense”

In the study developed by Giulia Escuri, a Journalism graduate and Master’s student at the Post-Graduate Program for Social Sciences of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (PPGCS/UFRRJ), she delves into the theme of violence in the Baixada Fluminense, her focus being the trajectories of the struggles of the mothers and family members of victims of lethal violence perpetrated by agents of the State.

“I intend to observe the actions utilized by these families as a resource and strategy in ‘struggles for justice’ against the State,” she says. The study began with her undergraduate thesis, when she analyzed the 2005 Baixada Massacre through the coverage it received from the O Globo media group. One of the points she is researching now are the direct consequences of extreme violence on the subjectivity of its victims and the people that surround them. This includes the collective and social dimension of mourning, in order to understand how the act of organizing as a network, especially in the case of the Network of Mothers and Family Members of Victims of State Violence in the Baixada Fluminense, affects the process of losing a loved one. 

Escuri is hopeful in relation to the contributions that her research can offer the region. Her choice of theme came from her own experience as a resident of the municipality of Nova Iguaçu. A detail caught her attention in this sense: she lives a few meters away from one of the sites where the 2005 massacre occurred. “Starting with fieldwork, along with the Network, I seek to investigate the following questions: how is the question of gender utilized in the fight for justice, what are the moral, emotional, and political categories that make up the action of the mothers, and how, specifically, does the Network of Mothers and Family Members operate in the region,” Escuri explains. 

“Law in the Production of Space: The Brazilian Federation in the Formation of Municipal Space, the Case of Nova Iguaçu”

This is the title of the study undertaken by Raul Rosa, a Master’s student in Territorial Development and Public Policy, also at the UFRRJ. With an undergraduate degree in Law from the same institution, and resident of Shangri-lá, a community on the periphery of Belford Roxo, Rosa analyzes the urban relations that form as the result of the creation of new municipalities, focusing on the relations among the municipality of Nova Iguaçu and more recent ones, freed from the former following changes in the federative design adopted with the Constitution of 1988, such as Mesquita and Belford Roxo.

“I ended up realizing how the municipalities of the Baixada are connected by diverse factors and separated by others. This led me to seek out the reasons for this organization and I arrived at the idea of studying how territorial divisions made by the State, based on a federative logic, influence the space that is lived in, perceived, and conceived of by the population,” explains Rosa. “With this, I am going to surround myself with a part of the legislation to analyze the impacts that this territorial redesign of the Baixada had directly on the population and how the judicial system permitted cities like Nova Iguaçu to be so sliced up, without thinking precisely about the social, economic, and political consequences of the creation of these new municipalities.” 

“Seworking: A Proposal for Social Coworking for Sewing for Women of Duque de Caxias”

Vanusa Rodrigues da Silva, who holds a master’s in Social Sciences at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), developed her research through her dissertation, where she engaged in a careful look at the work of the seamstresses of Duque de Caxias. Their proposal is to create a shared workspace that can attend to groups of women in this profession. Silva, whose first occupation was as a seamstress, composed the text from narratives of this group of professionals and their impressions with respect to their working conditions. You can read the full work (in Portuguese) here

“Although I had studied literature as an undergrad, my first job was as a seamstress. I learned the craft at age 14. By 16 I got my first job as a ‘production seamstress’s apprentice,’ an occupation that is completely mechanized and exhausting, with humiliating treatment. I had to submit myself to intimate inspections (on lunch breaks and on departure from work). I worked in various factories, because although I had good technique, I asked many questions and, consequently, I was unsuitable to those companies. I pursued other paths and arrived at a Master’s degree with this theme,” Silva explains. She hopes, with the visibility of her research, to construct a social project based on her research: a space in which women are able to dedicate themselves to their craft starting with a small contribution that helps with machinery and structure expenses. 

“Women Who Pray and Cure: Narratives and Resistances in Nova Iguaçu, Baixada Fluminense”

The study developed by Geraldo Bastos, a master’s student in the post-graduate program of Community Psychosociology and Social Ecology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), is about the resistances of prayer women (rezadeiras) in contexts of violence and intolerance. Bastos is the coordinator of the popular education course at the terreiro [Afro-Brazilian religious ground] Ile Ase Ogun Alakoro. As a researcher at the Laboratory for Memories, Territories, and Occupations (LabMEMs), he organized the first municipal meeting of prayer women of the city of Nova Iguaçu.

In his research, Bastos seeks to comprehend in what form racism and religious intolerance interact with the current scenario of violence in Nova Iguaçu, and, mainly, how this affects the women that pray and cure. “By being born in a family with a strong influence of African-origin religions, I was able to see first hand, since early on, the reality inside this territory of prayers, cures, and traditional knowledge, and, so, in a certain way, I began to grow dedicated to these causes, with these people,” explains the researcher. 

Bastos affirms that prayers and alternative medicine, such as the use of home remedies, often replace public provision of health services. The craft of the prayer women, who have acted in the region for more than 60 years, is likely to have cured thousands of sick people. Drawing attention to these processes and seeking forms of maintaining them is one of the possible contributions of this study.

“Cultural Management in the Baixada Fluminense: An Analysis of Public Policies in the Municipality of Duque de Caxias”

In his final paper, Marlon Santos analyzes discussions around culture and the problematic form in which public policies are implemented in the Baixada, especially in Duque de Caxias. He seeks to give dimension to the characteristics of the city’s cultural sector, identifying how public institutions realize cultural management and what actors participate in the elaboration of these policies. His research leads him to believe that incentives for, and the integration of, popular participation in the formulation and implementation of cultural policies remain two fundamental issues for cultural development.

“I chose this study because I ended up perceiving an enormous difficulty in the development of socio-cultural collectives in Duque de Caxias, principally due to the gigantic distance of public organs in relation to guaranteeing, at least, the visibility of autonomous groups. So, I wanted to understand how these public policies were being implemented, mainly those related to the city’s cultural management, especially on account of being a resident of the Baixada and a participant in the cultural activities that are present here,” says Santos.

Furthermore, the youth affirms that he would like to reflect on cultural management and contribute to the administration of culture in the city in which he lives. “I see an enormous potential for tourism inside the sociocultural collectives and I believe that this potential can only be realized with effective cultural public policies that include the protagonism of those who create culture in the city,” he closes. 

This article was written by Fabio Leon and produced in partnership between RioOnWatch and Fórum Grita Baixada. Fabio Leon is a journalist and human rights activist who works as communications officer for the Fórum Grita Baixada. Fórum Grita Baixada is a forum of people and organizations working in and around the Baixada Fluminense, focusing on developing strategies and initiatives in the area of public security, which is considered a necessary requirement for citizenship and realizing the right to the city. Follow the Fórum Grita Baixada on Facebook here.

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