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Solidarity Economies, Networks and the Positioning of Power in Alternative Cultural Production and Activism in Brazil : The Case of Fora do Eixo


This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the Brazilian cultural and activist network Fora do Eixo (FDE). Since 2005, FDE has emerged at local and national levels as a form of civic engagement in the digital age that connects political, economic and cultural fields of action. FDE has origins in cities outside the São Paulo-- Rio de Janeiro axis that dominates cultural production in Brazil, where it began producing independent music festivals through a system of barter and trade of cultural services. This alternative system soon morphed into an internal "solidarity economy" organized around a complementary currency, Card. FDE has since transformed into a full-fledge social movement, consolidating into communal houses across Brazil where members live and work full-time on a multiplicity of cultural projects and social campaigns and where a collective bank covers their material needs. Digital technology is as central to FDE's daily operations as it is to its institutional identity and to the identity of its members; they have become masterful at harnessing the affordances of new media to elevate their online visibility and promote their agenda and themselves. Its highly sophisticated communication team has allowed FDE to mobilize large publics and capture the attention of mainstream media companies like Globo, as well as high-level politicians including President Dilma Rousseff. The network's relevance as a social force was made particularly visible during the 2013 protests in Brazil where its latest initiative, Mídia NINJA, exposed police aggression and effectively debunked official versions of the protests espoused on mainstream news. This study seeks to understand FDE as a particular model of economic, cultural and political organization for a networked public. I analyze the complex and often messy processes involved in FDE's alternative systems of living, of cultural production and of political mobilization. Its ability to maintain a collective bank involves multifaceted strategies wherein "solidarity", as a discourse, is parlayed into economic, social and political forms of capital. Understanding both the material and symbolic dimensions of FDE's discursive strategies reveals important insights about how power is negotiated nowadays in the struggle for control of alternative cultural and political processes in Brazil

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