Sound-politics in São Paulo, Brazil




Cardoso, Leonardo de

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The way a city sounds has something to do with how its residents move around and interact. It also has to do with the decisions made by the local government, as it tries to eliminate “harmful” and “unnecessary” sounds. This dissertation discusses how residents of São Paulo deal with noise conflicts and the sound-politics these mediations entail. The concept of sound-politics, which I develop throughout the dissertation, intersects with other concepts such as body politics and space politics and as such it denotes controversial sounds as instantiations of individual or collective differences. Here I focus on how state agents mediate controversial sounds. The narrative draws heavily on actor-network theory, which investigates social interaction as an open-ended and localized network made of humans and non-humans. The first part of the narrative discusses São Paulo’s spatial organization, noise legislation, and the enforcement of this legislation. Drawing from ethnography at meetings designed to review noise measurement standards, and at São Paulo’s anti-noise agency, I show the series of negotiations that accompany the identification and prosecution of noisemakers in the city. The second part of the dissertation looks closely at street parties that take place in the suburbs of São Paulo. Known as pancadões (“big thumps,” in reference to the loudness), these parties feature funk carioca and funk ostentação, two styles of popular music, among lower class teenagers in São Paulo’s suburbs. Based on fieldwork among youth, community meetings, and on interviews with police officers, I show how these parties have gone through noisification processes since they first emerged around 2008.




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