Pedagogies of Occupation: Youth Aspiration, Social Mobility and the Politics of Time
Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Princeton University

Primary Discipline

My dissertation project explores how Brazilian education policy-makers and corporate actors have framed youth free time as a ‘gateway drug,’ and how keeping youth busy through various interventions—vocational training, after-school arts and sports, test prep and professionalizing programming — has become a widespread form of risk prevention and subject formation. Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, my dissertation examines how, and to what effect the imperative to manage youths’ free time in the name of prevention sets up a political field in which state, corporate and various nongovernmental actors can frame and justify interventions in the lives of Brazilian youth. Time management interventions can now instruct youth on how to become punctual and industrious citizens, scheduling their aspirations while stigmatizing their leisure. The dissertation investigates how low-income youth in Rio de Janeiro have come to participate in such interventions—largely couched in neoliberal ideas of individual responsibility and carried out by public-private partnerships—and the ways in which youth subvert and redirect these interventions and middle-class social identities into new forms of personhood and political agency.In 2016, a youth movement of over 1,000 autonomously run public school occupations (or encampments) swept into my field site. In response, I extended my focus on the occupation of time as a means to secure professional occupations in order to include protest occupations within the same analytical frame. Building on the Latin root word Ocŭpo, meaning “to seize/capture/gain/take possession/fill,” my dissertation introduces the concept “pedagogies of occupation” to analyze the politicized arena of youth free time across Latin America.
About Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela
Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Princeton University. He specializes in Cultural, Political, and Visual Anthropology, with an ethnographic focus on youth, education, the war on drugs and middle class identity. His research brings an anthropological perspective to social mobility, youth aspiration and the politics of free time in contemporary Brazil. In his anthropological studies, Benjamin has focused on the social and cultural effects of pedagogies of drug prohibition as they intersect with policies of social inclusion and citizenship formation in Latin America. Of Guatemalan-American descent, Benjamin witnessed the effects of transnational processes such as NAFTA, the drug war and deportations from both sides of the border, motivating him to join Americorps as a Community Health Instructor and to study political thinking and photography at Bard College before transferring and receiving his B.A in socio-cultural anthropology with an Honors Thesis at Columbia University.Benjamin’s dedication to socially engaged work is twofold. On one front, he works towards an engaged anthropology as a co-founder and facilitator of Catalyst: Youth Voices Rethink the War on Drugs, the first innovative United World College short-course of its kind (funded by OSF) that brings together youth from across the Americas to critically examine their interconnected lives as imbricated in this transnational conflict. On the other front, his commitment to rethinking teaching and learning beyond the classroom resulted in the current documentary film and trans-media project with Princeton University’s Visual Ethnography Lab that draws from his fieldwork from the inside of one of the over 1,000 public high school occupations that extended across Brazil and into neighboring countries during 2015 and 2016.

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