Dissertation Abstracts

January 2010, São Luiz do Paraitinga/SP: Logics of Power, Discourses and Practices in a Disaster

Author: Marchezini, Victor , victor.marchezini@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Federal University of São Carlos - UFSCar, Brazil
Supervisor: Norma Felicidade Lopes da Silva Valencio
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Disasters , Biopolitics , Recovery , Reconstruction
Areas of Research: Disasters


Disasters are socio-environmental phenomena, resulting from the interaction between a natural phenomenon – in this case heavy rainfall – and a given social organization, and culminating in a tragic event with both material and immaterial losses. In the social sciences, disasters are not considered to be natural, but rather a product of social, historical and territorially circumscribed processes (Valencio, 2009). They reveal the spatial superposition of social and environmental problems, whose state of crisis causes the emergence of a biopolitics of disaster, in order to guide a way to govern in the face of the event and, thus, deal with the populace as a political, scientific and biological problem and a problem of power (Foucault, 1999). Thus, a set of techniques, power mechanisms and security devices are employed with the aim of trying to manage the problems that arise in the crisis setting. Classificatory security techniques are produced, imbued with knowledge-power discourse, in order to create an administrable reality, thus aiming to frame the complexity of the social problems revealed in the scene as something propitious for technical management, emphasizing the aspects of this reality which could be “solvable.” Exceptional security and governance techniques to manage calamities are created, called Situation of Emergency (S. E.) and State of Public Calamity (S. P. C.), coups that permit the creation of fissures in the legal order, causing the forces of the State to grow (Foucault, 2008b). In Brazil, studies by Valencio (2012) showed that there were 10,195 declarations of S. E. or S. P. C. in the period from 2003-2009 (average of 1,456.42 declarations per year), which reveals that this form of governance became the rule and not the exception. I defend the thesis that these declarations of Situation of Emergency and State of Public Calamity are part of a biopolitics of disaster, used as techniques to increase the power of the State that, in the first moment of the emergency, saves lives, but that, after the impact, leaves to die, because the social demands of reconstruction and recovery are disconnected. The logic of power, the discourses and habits of the subjects involved in the post-impact process, that is, recovery and reconstruction in the face of disasters related with heavy rains in Brazil, are described. The disaster in São Luiz do Paraitinga, SP, a city that was flooded in January 2010, is used as a case study. A review of the state-of-the-art, documentary research and qualitative field research are adopted as methodological procedures. The temporal selection includes the period between January 2010 and June 2013, with the understanding that the process of social recovery is long term and extends beyond the period of this study. The results reveal that with the passing of time, especially with the end of the 180 day validity of the State of Public Emergency, the logic of saving lives become subtly diluted and a naturalizable logic of leaving to die gradually enters the scene, in the face of which the citizens of São Luis do Paraitinga, based on their socio-cultural repertory, seek strategies to create opposition. Discursively, the “day of the disaster,” a disaster that occurred is spoken of, but many of the practices reveal its continued existence.