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Eluding the Esculacho

A Masculinities Perspective on the Enduring Warrior Ethos of Rio de Janeiro's Police

Celina Myrann Sørbøe

Abstract

The Police “Pacification” Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora—UPP) program in Rio de Janeiro pledged to pacify both militarized police officers and the communities they patrolled: favelas occupied by armed drug traffickers. While the UPPs promoted a softer approach, police practices remained permeated with logics of violence. In understanding why, this article examines how an enduring “warrior ethos” influences the occupational culture of the police. I frame this warrior ethos by reference to notions of masculinity and honor both in the police culture and in the favela, and approach the warrior as a masculine performance. This masculinities perspective on the ways in which policing activities are framed and enacted provides important insights into why it was so difficult to change police attitudes and practices.