Guarding the Body

Private Security Work in Rio de Janeiro

in Conflict and Society
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Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the private security industry, this article focuses on the training of low-level guards, examining the centrality of the body and embodied experience to their work in hospitality settings. In a racially stratified society in which lower-class, dark-skinned bodies are oft en equated with poverty and criminality, security guards are required to perform an image of upstanding, respectable, law-abiding citizens in order to do their jobs protecting corporate property. Guards learn techniques of body management at security schools as part of their basic training. They also learn how to subdue the bodies of others, including those of white elites, who represent a constant challenge to their authority. Working from my own experiences as a student in private security schools, I argue for the relevance of an understanding of the body and its significations to private security work.