Matthew Richmond studied for a PhD at both the Brazil Institute and Geography Department at King’s. Here, he explains about his work across Brazil and why he’s never left:
'I was very lucky to carry out my PhD research at King’s. I spent a year conducting fieldwork in two favelas in different parts of Rio de Janeiro and the King’s Brazil Institute gave me great supervision and helped me to build strong connections with researchers in Brazil.
'My research looked at the effect that new urban policies, linked to the 2016 Olympics, had on communities. I found that there was huge variation between favelas across the city, and that different policies were implemented in different ways. I also identified big differences in how individual residents sought to take advantage of opportunities available to them. Despite this diversity, it was clear that social, symbolic and institutional factors continued to collectively separate the favelas from the rest of Rio, much to the disadvantage of their residents.
'My fieldwork was hugely enjoyable and eye-opening and, alongside conducting research, I taught English and organised photographic history projects with residents in both communities. Needless to say, during this period I formed some great personal friendships as well as academic collaborations. I also witnessed an important moment of change in Brazil, as underlying social conflicts exploded onto the street in the mass protests of June 2013.
'After finishing my PhD in 2015, I took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centro de Estudos da Metrópole (CEM), based at the University of São Paulo, who have close links with the Brazil Institute at King’s. My research then explored a range of issues. Being based in the country, I was able to immerse myself even more deeply in the field, speaking to everyone in the neighbourhood where I conducted my fieldwork: from activists and school teachers to police officers and Evangelical pastors.
'In one project, I noticed the changing attitudes in São Paulo’s ‘peripheries’ – communities that experience high levels of poverty. I discovered that, while many residents identify long-term improvements in physical conditions and a reduction in violence, they also lament declining social solidarity and express anxiety about urban insecurity. Related to this, I have recently focused on trying to understand why large numbers of low-income voters in favelas and peripheries recently voted for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, despite the fact that his agenda looks likely to increase violence and poverty in these areas. This work has kept me in São Paulo as a Research Associate with CEM, and I am working on several projects, including two books.
'As Brazil enters this new and challenging period, I can think of few, more interesting, places to be.'