Death on repeat

Violence, viral images and questioning the rule of law in Brazilian favelas

in Journal of Legal Anthropology

In the past decade, images of fatal police shootings shared on social media have inspired protests against militarised policing policies and re-defined the ways marginalised communities seek justice. This article theorises the repetition of violent images and discusses how social media has become an important tool for localising popular critiques of the law. I provide an ethnographic account of a police shooting in a Brazilian favela (shantytown). I am particularly interested in how residents of the favela interpret law and justice in relationship to contemporaneous movements such as Black Lives Matter. Reflecting Walter Benjamin’s concept of mechanical reproduction, this case study demonstrates an ‘aura’ that is shaped by the social and legal context in which a violent image is produced, consumed and aggregated. This case study suggests the possibility for research examining the ways inclusionary social media platforms are increasingly co-opted by oppressive political institutions.