Classes, conflicts, urban life, and social movements

Research projects:


Street society in São Paulo: the city outside the walls

Description: The aim is to contribute to the sociological debate on the characteristics of contemporary urbanisation that highlight the socio-spatial reality in São Paulo, identifying the rules of social interaction by which the street society (re)invents itself every day. It deals with a web of social processes that (re)make themselves in a fleeting and improvised way on the roads and public squares, amidst the force of vehicle and pedestrian circulation, and whose protagonists are distinguished by staying on the streets regularly. It is particularly important to inquire, by ethnography and documentation, the patterns of usage of streets and squares in the historic centre of São Paulo by these various non-passers-by in the present and in the past, which began with the political, social and urban transformations of the historic centre produced in the context of the last military dictatorship in the 1960s. Using ethnographic research (based on participant observation and production of photographs at Pátio do Colégio, at Sé, Patriarca, Ramos de Azevedo, and República squares, and their surroundings) and documentary research (news, chronicles, reader letters, editorials and photographs) based on the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, a city that is still little explored by sociology will come to the forefront of the analysis. A city living outside the walls of institutions and of possible conceptual certainties. And yet, a city where - by way of initial hypothesis - social interaction is mediated by stratified rules of another historical time, which are still very much present in the streets of São Paulo, in the midst of growing social inequalities of contemporary capitalism.

Professor in charge: Fraya Frehse (


Collective action, culture, and state

Description: Discussion of texts (in preparation) carried out between teachers and graduate students to improve the research that take place within the scope of the Graduate Program.

Professor in charge: Brasílio João Sallum Junior (


City, urban practices and the (new) illegality of the social world

Description: Continuing the previous project, the aim is to investigate the now expanding mesh of (new and old) illegalities intertwined in urban practices, their circuits and social networks, which are warped in the now redefined relationship (to be understood) between illegality, informality, and illicit practices. It is of interest to understand (and describe) the interfaces among the new figures of informal work, the various schemes of illegal (smuggling, piracy etc.) and illicit (drugs) goods markets, and, in some areas of the city, illegal migration (mainly Bolivians) in their relations, especially (but not only) with the (semi informal, semi illegal) textile circuit. These interfaces occur in territorialised ways. Therefore, they have varied modulations according to the city’s areas, and for this very reason, they require an empirical research strategy with a strong ethnographic dimension. We assume as theoretical and methodological hypothesis the requirement of an ‘experimental ethnography’, referring to ‘descriptive scenes’ that allow following this constellation of practices, mediations, and their connections in varied expanding circuits and networks. Each social situation/scenario goes through transverse processes on the trail of various forms of interconnectivity of social practices, whether they are socio-technical mediations that make up the urban world, or the networks (and their local management) of circulation of illegal and illicit goods in their transnational connections. These are, therefore, situated processes that can only be understood in their modes of territorialisation, and this is what may open up a path to prospect emerging social systems.

Professor in charge: Vera da Silva Telles (


Economy, social networks and knowledge in cities

Description: This study aims to improve the understanding of factors that explain the dynamism of knowledge-based economies, contributing to identify actions that strengthen the regional development potential of São Paulo and contribute to its distributional and integrative effects for the poorest portion of the population. In empirical terms (supported by previous studies carried out by this team), the selection of activity niches to be studied will prioritize areas that maintain transverse intersections, i.e., those that maintain provisioning and consumption relationships with diversified and articulated activities in networks, rather than productive chains. Some examples of these areas are:

Information technology, health and biotechnology, media (advertising, journalism, television, and audiovisual), fashion, higher education and R&D, tourism, and gastronomy. For the structural characterisation of these activities, we will use statistical bases, as well as more known entries (RAIS, CEMPRE, PED, PIA, PAS, PAC, PINTEC), administrative sources (Value Added Tax) and sectoral studies of business associations. The emphasis, however, will be given to case studies supported by qualitative methodologies. In terms of comparisons - specifically because São Paulo’s economy has unique characteristics in the domestic space -, we will prioritize the study of economic capitals of countries with trajectories and development levels similar to those in Brazil (South Korea, India and China). In the first stage of this research, between June and December 2009, two articles will be produced: one on economic development and cities (comparison between Brazil and Asia); and the other on knowledge, learning and areas of economic activity (or productive networks). The goal is to prepare the theoretical basis for later stages of the research.

Professor in charge: Alvaro Augusto Comin (


Hegemony in reverse? A theoretical and political discussion

Description: One of the most significant elements of the contemporary Brazilian reality seems to be an unprecedented form of consensus on core issues of economic policy, anti-poverty policies, forms of urban intervention, youth policies, educational agenda, public expenditure, criminalisation of social movements or of any other actors that oppose to resolutions and enunciations, which intertwine and justify each other with the argument that ‘it could always be worse.’ The subject of this research project is the formation of such consensus in its various fields, as well as the signs - however fragile they are - of possible cracks, fractures, and conflicts.

Professor in charge: Francisco Maria Cavalcante de Oliveira (


National Institute of Science and Technology for Metropolitan Studies

Description: The National Institute of Science and Technology (INCT) for Metropolitan Studies is a research program for transference and dissemination of interdisciplinary and inter-institutional nature, aimed to analyse the main mechanisms that explain the social conditions in the city, especially the reproduction of poverty and social inequality, understood as a combined result of three dimensions: i) the economic dynamics and, in particular, the opportunities created in the labour market; ii) the action from the Government and Public Institutions, of chief importance to understanding the access to social services and mechanisms for expression of interests; iii) the different modes of sociability and its impact on the urban life experience and the opportunities to overcome poverty.

Professor in charge: Nadya Araújo Guimarães (


Liberalisation, development and democracy

Description: To verify and follow liberalisation, development, and democracy.

Professor in charge: Brasílio João Sallum Junior (


On the trail of the working class: a sociological adventure

Description: Despite the existence of important bibliographical studies on the sociology of labour in Brazil focusing on several periods of this sociological knowledge formation and development, our literature still does not have a study on the evolution of the various research programs about the Brazilian labour market that is able to link them to different (professional, for public policies, critical, and public) practices existing in our disciplinary field. This is one of the main contributions to the theory of sociological labour division, which is the basis of the proposal of ‘public sociology’ by Michael Burawoy. To analyse the relationship between the programs and sociological practices, we will begin with the assumption that the sociology of Brazilian labour was permeated, in its early days, by the search for professionalization (1950/1960); later, it developed a strong critical sense and public engagement, which helped shape certain social identities (1970/1980); finally, it would have turned into a sociology for public policies (1990/2000). In addition, we intend to scrutinize the influence of the professional sociology of labour and USA organisations on the origins of Brazilian professional sociology, and analyse the impact produced in the 1970s and 1980s by the work of Harry Braverman on public sociology of labour in the country. Finally, we aim to compare the contemporary evolution of the sociology of labour in Brazil, which during the 1990s and early 2000s was directed at the formulation, implementation and analysis of public policies, with the changes on the investigative program of sociology of American labour. This will allow us to assess the uniqueness of the contemporary evolution of our own sociology of labour by comparing it with an investigative program that, through a sociological habitus characterised by engagement with ‘new unionism,’ also leaned towards non-academic audiences.

Professor in charge: Ruy Gomes Braga Neto (


Abolitionism as a social movement

Description: The project investigates the abolition of slavery in Brazil from the point of view of political sociology, arguing that it was the first Brazilian social movement. It complements a previous research, which analysed the phenomenon from two angles. On the one hand, it argues that the phenomenon has taken the form of a social network that involved activities in parliament, mobilisation of civil society on a national scale, and local mobilisations. On the other, it investigates the way through which the transfer of ideas and action strategies from the international abolitionist repertoire was processed for the Brazilian abolitionist movement, and how the national tradition has conditioned this process.

Professor in charge: Angela Maria Alonso (


The (non)daily use of central streets and squares in comparison: São Paulo and Lisbon

Description: The project investigates how the way pedestrians use the central historic public places in Lisbon can assist in the sociological understanding of the rules of conduct relating to the usage of streets and central historic squares of São Paulo.

Professor in charge: Fraya Frehse (


São Paulo Platform: city, space, memory

Description: Bringing together professors from the University of São Paulo who analyse the city of São Paulo from different investigative perspectives - arising from architecture and urbanism, anthropology, sociology, history and geography -, the project ‘São Paulo Platform: city, space, memory’ originated with the purpose of developing an online bilingual reference platform for studies on São Paulo, in which a collective task, based on theoretical and methodological issues that motivate researches by each teacher, will spatialize the dimensions of social practices in the city in different scales. It is, therefore, an interdisciplinary dialogue about the same investigative interest, forming and consolidating knowledge areas.

Professor in charge: Fraya Frehse (


Urban issues and governance in four metropolises in Latin America

Description: This project aims to establish a comparative assessment of the political experiences in four Latin American metropolises that combine great wealth, a great deal of poor inhabitants, and large middle class segments with very different profiles, all of which seeking to conquer their place in the current globalised scenario. The cities are Buenos Aires, Caracas, Mexico City and São Paulo. Among the various issues being faced by South metropolises, this project focuses on the production of spaces by different actors (public and private) and divergent interests in four areas: real estate and the place intended for different housing types; access to the (increasingly selective) labour market; the emergence of new trade forms; and the growing concern over public safety. In the case of São Paulo, following the general project guidelines, the aim is to investigate the metropolitan urban dynamics on the two angles that structure this project, namely: (i) urban governance understood as the games of actors (conflicts and interactions) and social policies on some critical social fields; and (ii) the globalisation processes. The research will be developed around the following themes: (i) the housing issue, which aims to confront the demand for housing by a large and diverse population, and how that diversity affects the forms of action of each social group and the dynamics of public and private relations, in particular, those that have been processing on the conflicting open arena in the central areas of São Paulo, composing a scenario of disputes between investments and public interventions, aiming to insert the city in globalised wealth circuits; (ii) redefinitions of trade forms and circulation of goods within the city of São Paulo: on the one hand, it aims to examine the current composition of the so-called ‘traditional’ activities in São Paulo, and how these activities are related to processes that redefine globalisation, on the other hand, our purpose is to investigate the redefinition of the now expansive itinerant trade in the city of São Paulo, in connection (to be determined) with new transnational circuits (and networks) of circulation of goods of legal or illegal (smuggling, counterfeiting etc.) origin, if not illicit (drugs, weapons), and finally, from the point of view of the lifestyle of poor populations, the research will also deal with consumer practices, equally redefined under the impact of this double process, and the presence of large consumer facilities in urban outskirts, driving the logic of indebtness by the financialisation of popular consumption (credit facilities and widespread use of credit cards and constant purchasing); and (iii) new forms of organisation of labour relations: bringing into focus the new activities of the higher tertiary sector, directly articulated with economic globalisation circuits, it aims to examine the combination, or even hybridisation, of the forms of labour in which the flexibility and precariousness of contracts coexist with extremely sophisticated ways of labour. Funded by Agence Nationale de La Recherche (ANR) and Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement, both of France.

Professor in charge: Vera da Silva Telles (


Social networks and job acquisition: non-market mechanisms in the market operation

Description: The project aims to study the way through which the inclusion in personal networks can serve as a mechanism for access to occupational information and for effective job acquisition. Under the same structural context, the chances of obtaining employment are assumed to vary according not only to individual attributes, but also to the nature of the networks in which individuals are inserted. To that end, from a theoretical point of view, the project aims to improve the understanding of the mechanisms through which the macrostructure of opportunities operates in the labour market. In doing so, the project is affiliated to contemporary studies within economic and labour sociology that aim to elucidate how extra-economic relationships are at the centre of economic life procedures and are crucial to understand the dynamics of events such as job search and job landing, which are far from being characterised only by constraints and determinants associated with its mercantile dimension. The project intends to continue this theoretical interest by following an empirical work methodology that is, at the same time, rigorous and innovative in the field of labour studies in Brazil, which will be combined with biographical interviews and network mapping techniques. Data will be collected from a subsample from an already established base, with information on 1504 job applicants who answered the survey questionnaire ‘Searching for Jobs,’ conducted in 2004 in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. The respondents of this survey form a representative sample of job applicants in the three main types of agencies (government, union and private).

Professor in charge: Nadya Araújo Guimarães (


Productive restructuring, culture and present time

Description: This research project aims to combine political, cultural and social dimensions present in the 20th century, taking into account a more multifaceted understanding of the present time.

Professor in charge: Ruy Gomes Braga Neto (


Historical sociology of the street in Brazil

Description: It is relevant to scrutinize how the historical possibility of modernity was lived, in Lefebvrian terms, in praxis in Brazilian cities, particularly São Paulo, between the colonial period and the early days of the Republic, exploring the historical contradictions involved in the day-to-day production of street spaces in the historic centre of São Paulo.

Professor in charge: Fraya Frehse (


Labour and unionism in Brazil and Argentina

Description: It aims to compare labour and unionism in Brazil and Argentina.

Professor in charge: Heloisa Helena Teixeira de Souza Martins (


Labour, union and regional development: a comparative study in the ABC regions

Description: The purpose of this project is to deepen the aspects related to the dynamics of regional and local development and its relationship with the issues of labour, labour market and union organisation, from large multinational assembly lines in two different productive territories. In addition to the more general theoretical questions, the research aims to establish points of comparison, seeking similarities and differences between the implementation processes of this type of production arrangement both in the ABC region of São Paulo and the south region of Rio de Janeiro. In this context, during the research, the following issues will be analysed: 1. the territorial dimension of development, i.e., the relationship between individuals and companies; 2. the organisation of civil society and institutions in the context of regional development; 3. the theme of ‘governance;’ 4. the new forms of political participation in the public sphere and in regional development management, i.e., how the process of interaction between local and regional actors happens and its relationship at the international level: the relationship between the local and the global; and finally, 5. to create conditions for a comparison to be made between these two regions.

Professor in charge: Iram Jácome Rodrigues (


Paths, circuits, and urban, national, and transnational networks

Description: Our purpose is to articulate, from a cross-sectional perspective, three levels of analysis of contemporary social dynamics from surveys that take into account: (i) a fundamental mode of action defined by the ability of individuals and groups, situated in different spatial scales (urban, national, and transnational) and of various civil or sexual identity plans, to cross boundaries; (ii) new forms of spatial experience, derived from the current conditions of distant communication and the circulation of imaginary and symbolic categories by the media; (iii) the impact of these phenomena, notably in terms of violent conduct, in democratic institutional architecture - Agreement CAPES/Cofecub.

Professor in charge: Vera da Silva Telles (


Changes in labour and union activity and its impact on the financial sector

Description: The purpose of this research is to analyse the changes occurring in the world of contemporary labour and particularly in the financial sector - in recent times -, and study the impact of this process on the capital/labour relations and, in particular, the impact of these trends on union activity. This purpose also highlights the analysis of the impact of economic globalisation process and technological changes on the labour market, as well as a greater internationalisation of union activity and its effects on Brazilian unionism, especially banking union. Emphasis will be given to the discussion of international literature to understand the macro-trends involved in this process, and, in the case of Brazil, an investigation will be made on the union agenda in general and banking union in particular between 1990 and 2010, to understand the changes in their practices. To this end, a detailed study will be carried out on the banking union in central countries, and, regarding the analysis of this movement in Brazil, the research will focus on the agendas of claims submitted to banks by union institutions and on the agreements between parties in the last twenty years. To expand and provide greater consistency to the study, we will also research themes that are convergent and directly related to the central issue. 1) Analysis of merger processes and transnationalisation of companies and their effects on union relationship, and levels of coordination between the data processing, commerce and telecommunication sectors; 2) To discuss and reflect on new models of union organisation and collective international negotiations.

Professor in charge: Iram Jácome Rodrigues (


Marxism in Brazilian universities

Description: The research investigates the socioeconomic and political profile, the professional situations and specific theoretical options of Brazilian Marxist who work in higher education as teachers and / or that are connected to the university for study link in pos-graduate. The first phase of this research, already carried out, is a survey of quantitative data through a questionnaire. After this step, we are in the treatment process of data and preparation of analyzes. The possibilities of continuing the research with the inclusion of qualitative procedures will be evaluate.

Professor in charge: Paula Regina Pereira Marcelino (


Crisis and recovery of unionism

Description: This project began with a post-doctorate at the State University of Campinas and remain in development at the University of São Paulo (2011-2016). The objective of the research that we propose is to revisit a debate that mobilized scholars, observers and activists of the labor movement in the 1980s and 1990. At that time, it was written a lot about the crisis and, in some cases, about the historic decline of the movement union. The question I want to raise is: in the light of trade union activity in the 2000s, what we can retrospectively say about those theses? In the 2000s, the unions left the crisis behind? We can say that the union activity of the current decade is belying the thesis of historical decline of trade unionism? We intend to have a broad overview of the Brazilian trade union activity at the end of ten years of research.

Professors: Paula Regina Pereira Marcelino - in charge ( Lidiane Soares Rodrigues ( e Danilo Torini (