Politics & Political Theory

The ambiguous labour of hope: Affective governance and the struggles of displaced street vendors in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

This article focuses on the struggle of a group of street vendors in Belo Horizonte, Brazil – displaced in the run up to the 2014 World Cup – to claim back their traditionally occupied workspace. Their displacement dramatically ruptured their pursuit of dignified livelihoods in the city’s informal economy. Using prolonged ethnography between 2014 and 2016, I describe how the workers engaged with an affective governance regime in which narrow avenues of negotiation are opened but promises are never kept, generating a constant state of unpredictability and possibility. This cycle of hope and frustration demobilises their resistance movement while their charismatic leader struggles to produce and maintain the hope that they might achieve relocation. This labour of hope keeps their association alive but also generates frustration and further demobilisation. The article foregrounds the ambiguous role played by hope in the life of political movements and their everyday relationships with states.

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Volume 39 Issue 5

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