Food oppression – What are Rio’s favela youth eating?

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Food consumption
Neoliberal diet
Rio de Janeiro

Food consumption patterns have been acutely changing in Brazil since the 1980’s. As food consumption is representative of the material conditions and living standards of a particular group or society, consumers from different socioeconomic backgrounds will not have the same access to foods. Low-income individuals will be restrained to basic foods while more affluent consumers will be able to afford a wider variety. Diets make social disparities and structural domination explicit. I have presented the systemic mechanisms that reinforce oppression through food consumption. This study analyzed the structural relations between food consumption and social classes in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have focused on youth, which is the group more acutely moving away from traditional food consumption patterns. Specifically, I focus on low-income teenager residents of the favelas as they are also the most socially vulnerable group in the city. The overarching research question I have tried to answer is: In what ways is food becoming a new form of oppression for the already vulnerable low-income populations in Rio’s favela? From my research I found the ways in which the political structure, market organization and socioeconomic status are translated into this new form of oppression, not from the deficiency of food but abundance of low-quality unhealthy food items. The narratives collected from Rio’s residents during the research showed the discrepancies in access and agency among different social classes. From my research, I found the connections between the food system and systemic oppressions that appear on the food consumption patterns of the population.

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Gerardo Otero
Arts and Social Sciences: School for International Studies
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.