City of Control: José Padilha and the Policing of Rio de Janeiro in Ônibus 174 (Bus 174), and Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad)

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This chapter analyses two works by Brazilian director José Padilha, a documentary,Ônibus 174 (Bus 174), and a feature film, Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad). Ônibus 174 (re)tells the story of a tragic bus hijacking that took place in the wealthy southern district of Jardim Botânico, while Tropa de Elite is a more conventional narrative about a crack police squad attempting to combat drug gangs. The works contribute in startlingly contradictory ways to debates surrounding that which Loïc Wacquant calls the shift from the “penalization to the militarization of urban marginality.” Both respond to the fact that in Rio de Janeiro, the hegemony of the prison as the state-sanctioned means of dealing with insecurity and violent crime has been destabilised by alternative, more rapid, and more lethal practices, which I suggest indicate a shift towards a version of what Gilles Deleuze terms the “society of control.”

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