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Troca-troca # 1: On vernacular gestures and an academic research centre in Rio

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One morning, walking through the streets of Rio de Janeiro I found two different types of vernacular manifestations of male homosexuality: one was a simple engraved graffiti of a heart that declared the love between two boys (Mario and Diogo) and the other was a used condom laying on the ground of Flamengo beach park, a cruising spot for men who desire men. The first was a sign with a significance standing between 'the cute' and 'the countercultural', that also seemed to be celebrating monogamy, while the other was sign of collective and ‘clandestine’ sexuality. That very same day I had arranged a meeting with Professor Sergio Carrara, director of CLAM- Latin American Center on Sexuality and Human Rights, an academic research centre that “produces, organizes, and disseminates knowledge about sexuality from a human rights perspective, in order to help fight gender inequality and to contribute to the struggle against the discrimination of sexual minorities in the region” (www.clam.org.br) Located in the heart of UERJ, the brutalist/futurist university campus built in dictatorial times at Maracana neighbourhood, CLAM is part of the Faculty of Social Medicine where it engages academically in queer and women studies and acts as a key figure in LGBT policies of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Latin America. From my meeting with Sergio, CLAM seems to work on the basis of understanding that sexuality is manifested micro politically, perhaps by understanding that it has context-specific cultural connotations. With this I do not pretend to essentialize ‘culture’, but to point out that nowadays at a historical time where Gay Pride ideology has played a key role in globalizing process of gender and sexual identification for both homosexuals and heterosexuals (as othering), CLAM maybe an institution that works in-between a humanitarian perspective (assassinations caused by homophobia and domestic violence led by sexism) and social agency. I will not go through the many projects they have and continue to fulfil, as the reader can be self informed by their website, but perhaps to make myself clear as to how specific CLAM can get, for example a PhD student is researching case studies of evangelic gay men in Rio who have been or are in the process of what their church calls Terapia de reverção, something like Reverting therapy, which seeks “going back to heterosexual essence”. In Rio de Janeiro nearly half of its lawmakers are evangelists and they have even discussed the possible change within the ethical code of psychology practitioners, as to give legal way for evangelist physiologists to perform this therapy. Leaving the premises of CLAM, I couldn’t help but wonder that if homosexuality was coined in the 19th century as a pathology by the medical institution, why would such a progressive institution be located today within the Faculty of Social Medicine? If for Foucault the medicalisation of the body and space (both public and private) that which acts upon the body, plays a key role in the formation of subjects or rather the objectivation of the subject, there is indeed a symbolic contradiction (or maybe not) for CLAM to operate inside there. Right at the exit of UERJ, I glanced towards a favela slum appearing at the background, as it does happen to occur in many spots of this city, it was then that I thought back of Mario and Diogo; in my fantasy they were boys from lower class who in a moment of exaltation, love and desire had written their names inside a heart as a kind of exteriorization of their subjectivities. Most probably Mario and Diogo have never heard of CLAM nor have the men cruising below the trees of Flamengo park, exemplifying the plurified forms of representation concerning sexuality towards the collective; a complex network of subjects who although at close distance they appear to be detached from one another.

Inti Guerrero

 

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