The international research project Building the Barricades  investigates the impact of armed conflict and urban violence on the mental health and well-being of 140 thousand people living in Mare, one of the largest favela complexes in Rio de Janeiro, which faces multiple stress factors and is, in its great majority, controlled by armed drug gangs and local militias.

The multidisciplinary study aims to better understand the stress factors faced by these communities: absence of the State/welfare system and basic services, social-economic exclusion and limited access to cultural institutions.

The research team has surveyed 1,400 residents including 200 crack-cocaine users living on or at risk of living on the streets. They also conducted in-depth interviews, organised focus groups and mapped health services and social services support as well as cultural activities available to the communities that were identified by residents as support networks to improve their well-being. From June to October 2020, the research also conducted three sub-studies (social sciences, health and culture) to understand the impact of Covid-19 pandemia on the residents mental health, wellbeing , cultural activities and income generation.

  • Click here to read the research protocols article, published ad BMI Psychiatry
  • Literature Reviews – click to read: Social Sciences, Culture and Health (Portuguese)
  • Click here to access the quantitative research instrument used with 1.200 Maré residents (Portuguese)
  • Click here to access the quantitative research instrument used with people who use drugs  (Portuguese)

In addition to separate academic papers in the field of psychiatry, sociology and cultural economics there will be an edited collection of essays from the combined research team and a research report presented at the end of the study.

Arts Research

Building the Barricades, in addition to familiar research tools from medicine and social sciences, uses the arts to produce narratives and images that reflect on and challenge the stigma and social exclusion associated with young people from the favelas and peripheries.

The acclaimed Brazilian anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares will write a separate study of the narrative produced by the artists on the research team who have been working with drama, music, poetry and photography.

Audio Drama/ podcast 


Over the first five months of COVID-19 global pandemic, six poets from Maré took part in creative writing workshops (using digital platforms) led  by People’s Palace Projects artistic director, professor Paul Heritage (Drama, QMUL) and Welsh theatre director Catherine Paskell (Dirty Protest).

As a result, the young artists collaboratively produced Becos, an audio drama in four acts which is available on all podcast platforms. The story is about joy, opportunities, violence, racism and injustice and the resilience built by poor Brazilian communities every day. With poetry and music, the six young artists from one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, guide us through the alleyways of Mare.

Click here to go to Becos hotsite


Musician Rafael Rocha, who created the Becos soundtrack, produced an album inspired by the audio drama’s creative process. The 11 original tracks of “Satelite” explore favela sounds and feature the poems and the manifesto written for Becos.

Listen to Satellite HERE


During the lockdown, residents of Maré were encouraged to document what they saw through their windows and entered their photos and text in a virtual competition. The finalists were selected for the digital arts exhibition A Maré de Casa curated by visual artist Tatiana Altberg and researcher Raquel Tamaio. On the same site, six young photographers also documented during four months their daily lives via written and photo documentation.


The international research Building the Barricades is led by Redes da Maré, People’s Palace Projects, Queen Mary University of London, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Social Sciences Department and Psychiatry Department) and NECCULT.  The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council, through the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Arts Council England.