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Women in Dark Times:

Feminist Perspectives on Violence, Security and Organised Crime in Brazil

Since the beginning of the so-called “war on drugs” in the 1980s, the levels of violence have increased successively in the country, making Brazil today the leader in killings perpetrated by the police. The alarming rates of police violence in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, sometimes exceed the homicides recorded in the context of countries in a situation of declared war, such as Syria.

Although the militarisation of Brazilian security policies in the context of the “war on drugs” has gained considerable attention in recent years, its impact on women, and particularly on structurally marginalised women, has not been a central issue in the public debate.

This column aims to fill this gap by presenting a series of articles which analyse key issues in the discussion of public security from a feminist perspective, prioritising the causes and effects of gender within the debate about the “war on drugs” and related phenomena. These include, for instance, law enforcement violence, international arms trade, the diffusion and diversion of firearms, the prison system, dynamics of organised crime groups, and political violence - topics that are of great relevance to the Brazilian society and especially the low-income, Black and female population living in the urban peripheries.

The title of the column is inspired by Hannah Arendt’s Men in Dark Times (1968), which, in turn, is a homage and answer to Bertolt Brecht’s poem To Posterity (1949), reflecting on the “dark times” of national socialism and the gloomy experiences of resistance and exile. Arendt, who portraits Brecht in one chapter of her book, argues that it is precisely the darkness of the historical moment that brings out the light and innate strength of some of the most remarkable individuals – men and women who have not shied away from the task history had prepared for them.

As Arendt writes: “Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth.”


Columnist: Kristina Hinz is a researcher at the Laboratory for Violence Analysis (LAV) at the State University of Rio de Janeiro and a PhD candidate in Political Science at the Free University of Berlin.

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