This chapter seeks to unravel an analytical binary that has permeated mainstream gender analysis of violence, particularly the global north, and by extension, increasingly in the global south. We refer to analysis that has located gendered violence primarily as an issue at the level of the private, domestic sphere, emphasising violent relations between intimate or family partners, whereas violence in the public space has often been studied as “stranger violence”. However, our research in marginalised favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, points to a more complex scenario whereby public violence invades the private space and private “domestic” violence is played out in the social and institutional context of gang and police violence. Moreover the organisation of social and economic life in the urban contexts of high-density and impoverished neighbourhoods, variously labelled as slums, shanty towns, or informal neighbourhoods1, renders non-sensical any spatial separation between private and public life, making the distinction between the “casa” and the “rua” ideologically rather than spatially constructed.2 This porous nature of spatial boundaries is also reﬂected in the overlapping dynamics of gendered violence in these localities, making it imperative to interrogate the complex and contradictory ways in which interpersonal and familial violence is interwoven with institutional and crime-related violence in the lives of people living in these communities. The multiple and contradictory roles and experiences of women are key to
understanding this complexity. Women are more than passive victims; they also collude in, support and increasingly perpetrate violence across the public/ private divide, as gang members but also as carers, partners and parents, neighbours and workmates. Nor is this a phenomenon solely of cities in the global south; the same phenomenon is increasingly hitting the headlines in London and other European cities, as concern about “girl gangs” and anti-social behaviour rises up the political agenda. But this is not a case of women catching up with men’s violence as modernity leads to increasingly atomised and antagonistic social relations. A gendered analysis of urban violence has to explore the two-way links between the private and public spheres and spaces,
in terms of how women’s roles result in vulnerability and contradictions as they respond to and interact with male-dominated activities, power structures and locations.