The New Yorker‘s recent short piece on Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2010 Olympics, points out a recent “dramatic upsurge in the city’s gangland violence.” Reporter Jon Lee Anderson recounts a night he spent tagging along on a police raid into the Mangueira favela (one of Rio’s oldest slums) — one with violence and encounters similar to others he’s witnessed in Baghdad, and one in which a policeman tells him that Rio is the most dangerous place in the world, “more dangerous than Afghanistan or Iraq.” (the article links to both a longer piece the author published earlier this month on drug gangs in Rio and an eye-opening audio slide show with photographs by João Pina.)
John Hagedorn, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has studied gang formation in three major world cities with gangs that have been in operation for decades: Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Capetown. Through research published in A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture, he discovers that some gangs have institutionalized as a strategy to confront a hopeless cycle of poverty, racism, and oppression. His book discusses how such gangs have persisted around the world and proposes ways gangs might be encouraged to overcome their violent tendencies. Hagedorn discussed some of his research on Book TV earlier this year.