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Global cars: a transnational urban research on vehicle informal economies (Europe, Africa and South America)

Grant number: 20/07160-7
Support Opportunities:Research Projects - Thematic Grants
Duration: April 01, 2021 - March 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Sociology - Urban Sociology
Convênio/Acordo: ANR
Principal Investigator:Bianca Stella Pinheiro de Freire Medeiros
Grantee:Bianca Stella Pinheiro de Freire Medeiros
Principal researcher abroad: Jacquot Sébastien
Institution abroad: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
Host Institution: Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Pesquisadores principais:
( Atuais )
Vera da Silva Telles
Pesquisadores principais:
( Anteriores )
Bianca Stella Pinheiro de Freire Medeiros
Associated researchers: Bruno Pantaleão de Oliveira ; Carolina Christoph Grillo ; Corentin Cohen ; Daniel Veloso Hirata ; Denis Giordano ; Isabela Vianna Pinho ; Luana Dias Motta ; Marcos Vinicius Lopes Campos ; Marie Morelle ; Regis Bernard Minvielle
Associated scholarship(s):24/04869-6 - Transnational connections between (i)legal markets: the journeys of stolens cars in Rio de Janeiro (Brasil) and Chicago (USA), BP.IC
22/05814-5 - Vehicle auctions in Brazil: Political disputes and regulations in a market., BP.MS
22/01731-8 - Informality and work: realities of the second-hand car economy in West Africa, BP.PD
+ associated scholarships 22/00300-3 - Transnational connections between (i)legal markets in the Porto de Santos, BP.IC
21/05226-3 - "His life is hanging in my hand". social, political and economic dynamics of loan sharking in the peripheries of São Paulo, BP.MS
21/04859-2 - Crime, stolen cars and drug trafficking seen through the peripheries of São Paulo, BP.IC
20/12310-8 - City of cars: an ethnography on the boundaries between the legal and the illegal through car dismantling in São Paulo, BP.DR - associated scholarships


Cars are in the center of urban and environmental issues around the world. Cars entangle global economies, from the mainstream to the margins. Social research paid scarce attention to them. Our project departs from describing informal, illegal and criminal activities related to the second-hand car economies (street mechanics, trade and theft of parts, car theft and trafficking, resale of second-hand vehicles) between Latin America, Europe and Africa. More than an international comparative research, our team want to develop a multisitued empirical research, at the intersection between urban and transnational scales. We assume that transnational mobilities inscribed in second-hand car economies reveal the reconfigurations of work in a postFordist context, as well as the mechanisms of social inequalities, conflicts and violence reproduction. We also assume that the automobility regime integrates legal, informal and even criminal practices and goods in the same market. From those empirical practices we propose to study the sociopolitical rationalities underlying those economies, as well as looking at their concrete effects to urban space and the reconfigurations of public action with regard to informality. Our research project proposes the hypothesis that different coexistent normative regimes (state legibility, criminal or religious frames, informal businessmen logics etc.) govern the gray zones between legal and illegal car economies. This project seeks to go beyond certain interpretations of informal and criminal economies in cities, both in the Global South and the Global North. Global economies, informal and criminal activities related to car economies are taken in our project not as part of 'the underworld' of the megacities, but rather an important component of the urban landscapes worldwide. Although these economies are thought to be marginal, and are mostly ran by working class operators, they are also an important part of globalized value chains. To do so, this project brings together several research traditions and groups that are rooted in different national and socio-political contexts. We propose multisited ethnographies in Sao Paulo, Santos, Paris, Naples, Genova, Dakar, Conakry, Abidjan and Benin City. Our empirical material will be analysed in order to reconstruct five empirical and analytical cases: I) exchanging stolen cars by cocaine in Brazil-Bolivian border, II) exporting cocaine to Africa and Europe by Santos Port; III) cars and drug trafficking between Sao Paulo and West Africa (Dakar), IV) autoparts, vehicles and migration, between Europe and West Africa; V) laundering money between Naples and Benin City; VI) parts and vehicles traffic from the Abidjan's hub. Each empirical case discusses a different point where stolen vehicles, second-hand vehicles, or pieces make their stops: poor peripheral urban districts, car dealerships, legal and illegal scrapyards, car part shops, police stations and state agencies that regulate vehicle trafficking, as well as insurers, car auctions and national border areas. The journey of stolen cars, second-hand parts, mechanicians and related people and objects reveals some unexpected empirical connections between rich and poor territories, people and institutions. The team will conduct biographies of individuals involved in the second-hand car economy, paying attention to their mobility ; an analysis of urban landscapes and their transformations in relation to this economy, observations and interviews to analyse the functioning of hubs and spaces through which parts and vehicles transit, interviews with institutional and associative actors in charge of regulating the activity (police, local development, social action and migration, social and solidarity economy, popular economy). (AU)

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Scientific publications (5)
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
FROMM, DEBORAH. Insurance technopolitics: Car theft, recovery, and tracking systems in Sao Paulo. SECURITY DIALOGUE, v. 54, n. 1, p. 15-pg., . (17/24649-7, 20/07160-7)
GABRIEL FELTRAN; RAFAEL ROCHA; JANAINA MALDONADO; GREGÓRIO ZAMBON; FERNANDA DE GOBBI. Lei do desmanche, PCC e mercados. Tempo Social, revista de sociologia da USP, v. 35, n. 1, p. 17-43, . (20/07160-7)
LUANA DIAS MOTTA; LUIZ GUSTAVO SIMÃO; DEBORAH FROMM; JULIANA ALCANTARA. Elites em disputa por mercados populares. Concorrência e confiança na economia (i)legal de veículos. Tempo Social, revista de sociologia da USP, v. 35, n. 1, p. 45-66, . (20/07160-7)
BIANCA FREIRE-MEDEIROS; LUANA MOTTA; DEBORAH FROMM. Carros globais, desigualdades transnacionais: Sobre a economia (in)formal de veículos. Tempo Social, revista de sociologia da USP, v. 35, n. 1, p. 5-15, . (20/07160-7)
GABRIEL FELTRAN; CECÍLIA LERO; MARCELLI CIPRIANI; JANAINA MALDONADO; FERNANDO DE JESUS RODRIGUES; LUIZ EDUARDO LOPES SILVA; NIDO FARIAS. Variações nas taxas de homicídios no Brasil: Uma explicação centrada nos conflitos faccionais. Dilemas: Revista de Estudos de Conflito e Controle Social, v. 15, p. 311-348, . (19/14105-5, 19/25686-9, 20/07160-7)

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