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When the (face)mask slips: politics, performance and crisis in urban Brazil

Ikemura Amaral, Aiko, Jones, Gareth A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9844-4547 and Nogueira, Mara (2021) When the (face)mask slips: politics, performance and crisis in urban Brazil. City, 25 (3-4). 235 - 254. ISSN 1360-4813

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13604813.2021.1946325


In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and the act of masking have become emotive subjects for social and political debate. In Brazil, one of the countries most severely affected by the pandemic, the seemingly mundane act of mask-wearing has become part of a deep social, political and economic crisis at the centre of which is the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. In this paper we explore the politics of (un)masking in Brazil from three vantage points in which the mask serves to dramatise the country’s current moment. Firstly, we trace the connections and disjunctions between the politics of mask-wearing and the genealogies of hygienist policies associated with the modern aspirations of the Brazilian republic. Secondly, we consider how masks are incorporated into the everyday life of the city through popular economies, which reveal the potentialities and limitations of work beyond the modern ideals of waged labour. Finally, we explore the incorporation of masks in urban street-art. We approach graffiti and murals as situated performances of symbolic resistance that contest and reveal the incoherences of Bolsonaro’s anti-science discourse. In tandem, these three perspectives foreground practices of (un)masking that expose long-standing tensions and new contemporary challenges that characterise the politics of a ‘crisis society’.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: IGA: Latin America and Caribbean Centre
Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2021 14:24
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2021 19:03

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