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'Have you ever seen a thief wearing a uniform?' Struggling for dignity in southeastern Brazil
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, Institute of Latin American Studies.
2015 (English)In: Ethnography, ISSN 1466-1381, E-ISSN 1741-2714, Vol. 16, no 2, 207-222 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Brazil is a highly unequal and socially segregated society. Within this context, Brazilians' everyday lives are marked by the constant reading of bodies: Who is/could be/looks dangerous? Who should be avoided? Poor working-class people are painfully aware of readings merging poverty and criminality. Based on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork among middle-class and lower-income persons in southeastern Brazil, this photo essay investigates some visual mechanisms at play in processes of social categorization. With a point of departure in the rhetorical question 'Have you ever seen a thief wearing a uniform?' uttered by unskilled workers at moments when their moral status is questioned, this essay examines the dynamic tensions linking physical appearance, morality and social hierarchies in contemporary Brazil. It highlights some of the ways through which unskilled workers' uniforms can be a marker of both marginality and morality as they provide a visual basis for classism in everyday interaction and signal, in other situations, group affiliation, honesty and worker pride.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 16, no 2, 207-222 p.
Keyword [en]
Brazil, uniforms, unskilled workers, physical appearance, social inequalities, morality
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108869DOI: 10.1177/1466138114547623ISI: 000355614100004OAI: diva2:761152
Degraded objects, disposable people: On Garbage, social inequality, consumption and citizenship in southeastern Brazil
Swedish Research Council, 2009-1455
Available from: 2014-11-05 Created: 2014-11-05 Last updated: 2015-07-21Bibliographically approved

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Machado Borges, Thaïs
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