Date of Award

Summer 8-27-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Wilson, Robert M.


favela memories, Museu da Maré, museum geographies, right to the city, urban geography

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Geography | International and Area Studies | Latin American Studies | Museum Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Rapid growth in cities of the Global South has precipitated urban inequalities, particularly the urban and social exclusion of low-income city residents. Right to the city scholars have investigated claims to urban space but have not fully considered the role of museums and the politics of memory as central to the debate about contesting erasure in low-income areas. While Latin American memory studies scholars have analyzed traumatic events such as dictatorships and civil wars in the region and memorialization practices that evolved post-trauma, they have not yet taken into account contested favela memories and their role in the right to the city. This research examines the role of favela-based memory initiatives in urban areas focusing on the Museu da Maré, one of the first museums in a favela, located in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I examine how the Museu da Maré mobilizes favela memories, political consciousness, and place-based identities in its struggle for social and urban justice. I join insights from social museology – a type of museology meant to transform society through museum practices – and the right to the city, or who has a claim to belonging in a city. I draw from an ethnography of the Museu da Maré, during which I participated in workshops, partner events, day-to-day operations, book and film presentations, festivities, museology network meetings, and fundraising events. Additionally, I conducted a participatory mapping workshop with youth at the museum to engage with youths' collective memories of the city and the way that mapping practices in and from the favela contest representations of Rio de Janeiro. In the first chapter, I trace a brief history of museums in Brazil and the development of social museology, the guiding concept at the Museu da Maré, to lay the groundwork for how this museum contests erasure through its practices. Following in the Paulo Freire-influenced tradition of social museology, in the second chapter I provide a walkthrough of the Museu da Maré to argue that the museum is not only a site where staff and visitors put into practice socio-museological theory, they also produce it. In the third chapter, I focus on the youth docent program at the museum and the participatory mapping workshop to demonstrate the sense of belonging that the museum's memory-based practices encourage in youth. These memory-based practices are fundamental to the right to the city struggle in Maré. In chapters four and five, I look at the museum's practices beyond its walls, focusing first on tributes to Marielle Franco after her assassination in March 2018 and later on the museum's participation in events across the city as part of how the Museu da Maré functions as a constellation of sites, networks, and relationships. Finally, I argue that the Museu da Maré blurs the lines between a museum and a social movement as it shows the possibilities for museum practices that contest erasure from the favela and beyond.Ultimately, by looking at the intersection of museums and urban justice, I argue that scholars should pay greater attention to the temporality of the right to the city. The case of the Museu da Maré allows us to consider the right to the city's simultaneous orientation toward the past and toward the possibility of a more just future.


Open Access

Available for download on Wednesday, October 09, 2024