faces and favelas: 7,883 words later

After three weeks of intensive reading and writing, I now have time to catch on email, my google reader, and this blog! Both essays went pretty well, I managed to finish both of them without pulling an all-nighter.

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"JR à Londres - JR @ London"

For the Cultural Studies paper, I wrote about the significance of the face in Parisian street artist JR’s work, focusing on his Face2Face Project in Israel and Palestine. Contemporary critical theorists, such Bernadette Wegenstein, that the face is now obsolete, meaning that it is no longer the primary signifier of the body and human experience. The face no longer colonizes the whole body.

Now, the body can be represented as just an arm or a leg. However, these body parts do not stand for the whole body, but are autonomous and self-reflexive. Challenging the notion of the “natural” body, advancements in technology and science have allowed us to think about and control the body in new ways. These developments have forced us to question the supremacy of the face and the ways in which the body is organized and hierarchized.

However, using the face in JR’s face as my case study, I argue that the face stills plays an indispensable role in certain cultural contexts and while other body parts may achieve the same level of significance as the face, this is only possible in particular situations. While we should imagine and use the body in new ways, we should also recognize its historical, cultural, and material limitations.

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"Favela Villa Canoas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil"

For the City and Its Others paper, I wrote about the spectacle of the favela, focusing specifically on the way in which pop cultural representations, such as City of God, Flickr, and even restaurants, reflect and influence our perception of the favela. I discussed how the favela is understood on a macro and micro level, looking at how it is situated in the discourses on slums and urban poverty, but also how its own site-specific cultural history has impacted its development.

While the favela is still viewed as a “marginal” space in classical urban theory, its status of “marginality” has been re-worked in new ways to promote the cultural products of this othered urban space. The favelas are often seen as on the cutting edge of culture, offering a multitude of opportunities for mass consumption. These pop cultural products have inspired many to visit the favelas, places that were once considered completely off limits to non-residents.

One of the most recent cultural practices in developing cities is slum tourism. Whether it is to have a more intimate understanding of poverty or a more ‘authentic’ and ‘edgy’ travel experience, touring the slums has become an increasingly popular trend among urban travelers. However, to what extent, is this practice ethical?

My paper discussed the way in which the spectacle produces and is produced by slum tourism, as well as the politics of seeing and visiting the favela.

Overall, I am happy with the way both papers went, but I am glad I can now just focus on my dissertation!

“JR à Londres – JR @ London” by Flickr user yoyolabellut

“Favela Villa Canoas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” by Flickr user Philip Ritz

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