Legalized Displacement: Analyzing Eviction Apparatuses in Brazil
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Legalized Displacement: Analyzing Eviction Apparatuses in Brazil


Brazil is internationally known for having a very progressive legislation and inclusive policieswhen it comes to land and property rights. Despite all the legal mechanisms created by recent legislation to reverse exclusionary patterns of land use, nonetheless, the Brazilian judiciary is ordering the eviction of thousands of marginalized families. In this dissertation I argue that these removals and violations of citizens’ constitutional right to housing must be understood as part of what I call legalized displacement; namely, land dispossession practices that are not only a direct result of real estate speculation, including the financialization of the housing sector, but of a much broader discriminating process, in which the courts are playing a major role. Drawing from Porto Alegre, a city with a participatory planning tradition, this dissertation explores post-millennial eviction apparatuses in Brazil, including the logics, actors, and laws behind displacement both within the formal and informal housing markets. My goal here is to investigate how these removal practices are being validated – especially through urban-legal paradigms and judicial discourses – and contested – particularly in the light of the attempt of democratizing the judicial process with the creation of conciliation courts on collective land conflicts. The questions that guided this dissertation are: 1) how are evictions pursued by the Brazilian judiciary today and how are they contested; 2) how are legal frameworks of land use and property rights being used to justify displacement; and 3) what is the role of conciliation courts, formal spaces of land disputes in Porto Alegre, in challenging collective dispossession. To answer my questions, I employ archival research, spatial and discourse analysis, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. I find that the courts barely cite paradigmatic urban and land legislations in their rulings, relying instead on specific articles from civil procedure codes, bureaucratically regulating possessory actions. I also conclude that judges are mobilizing political ideologies that condemn alternative tenure models. Finally, my last chapter shows that the new model of justice through conciliation courts does not result in a real redistribution of power and resources, as marginalized groups are still ignored and eventually dehumanized in these mediation hearings.

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