Lorena Volpini

The political implications of self-construction in a Brazilian periphery. The overlapping of residential and brokerage networks in grassroots civil society

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This paper analyses a network of neighborhood organisations in the Itapagipe Peninsula, a working-class area of Salvador, Brazil. Participant observation, interviews and network analysis were carried out during four years of fieldwork. Results show that institutional partnerships among the neighborhood associations rely on brokerage networks and neighborhood activists’ personal networks of proximity. Instead of analysing these personal ties from the sole perspective of clientelistic relations, I see them as being produced by a specific relatedness linked to spatial processes of dwelling and building. Kinship and friendship ties are the result of cohabitation arrangements analyzed by anthropologists as networks of houses. By providing an account of the ways in which grassroots organizations relate to one another, recruit people and reproduce associative forms, I attempt to demonstrate how everyday lived space shapes the institutional terrain of civil society in a Brazilian periphery.


  • self-construction
  • neighborhood associations
  • brokerage net- works
  • civil society
  • proximity


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