Contemporary Brazil has experienced a wave of large-scale urban social gatherings at shopping malls of underprivileged youth known as rolezinhos. While neither illegal or explicitly political, these gatherings generated deep unease among the middle-classes and the municipal authorities. This thesis investigates the rolezinho phenomenon in São Paulo as a social-movement cycle. It is first situated in the long historical context of colonial and imperial urbanization, slavery, and social repression and, subsequently, in the immediate contemporary context of the seemingly similar, yet more explicitly political, Movimento Passe-Livre (MPL). The research findings suggest that the rolezinhos participants, who are discriminated against and had their actions criminalized in urban spaces, saw themselves as young people aiming to express their unique cultural and social identities from the periphery. Given the reaction from the upper and middle-class with concerns over social order and crime, illustrated by brutal police response and criminalization of the rolezinhos, the local government under the Workers Party (PT) administration decided to intervene, negotiate and coopt leaders of the movement. Thereafter, the movement declined and later collapsed when the Social Democratic Party
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Thesis advisor: Otero, Gerardo
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