Discourses about the excluded: to whom is the public space?

Maria Helena Cruz Pistori, Associate Editor of Bakhtiniana, Post-Doctorate – Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP), São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Paulo Rogério Stella, Foreign Languages Executive Editor of Bakhtiniana, Universidade Federal de Alagoas – UFAL; Post-Doctorate – Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP), São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

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Law Against Rights? A Controversy in São Francisco Square Written in Folha de S. Paulo: Critical-Discursive Reflections is the title of the article written by Viviane de Melo Resende (University of Brasília – UnB), published in the latest issue of Bakhtiniana (vol. 17 no. 3). It is a text that is worth highlighting, not only for its academic quality, but above all for the reflections it raises in a time when we are experiencing the constant growth of the homeless population in large cities. The way we understand the problem and express it undoubtedly has an impact on the search for solutions to it.

The article is the result of a research project sponsored by CAPES (Coordination for Higher Education Staff Development) and developed at Pompeu Fabra University, in Spain, entitled “Representation of public policies for homeless population as territorial management: spatial metaphors in Folha de S. Paulo” – the media, among those studied, which most publishes news related to territorial issues.

From a critical discursive approach and decolonial perspective, the author analyzes four opinion articles, all of them written by former students of Higher Education School of Law (University of São Paulo) at São Francisco Square The articles studied deal more specifically with the homeless population that lives in front of the institution. The controversy is developed in the “Tendências e Debates” (Trends and Debates) column of that newspaper.

One of the points that stands out in the treatment of the theme is its initial theoretical contextualization – the decolonial perspective. Thus, concepts such as coloniality, modernity and discourse are presented to the reader, seeking to show how the perspective of colonial-modernity can deepen the understanding of the street situation of the excluded ones and the discourses linked to the theme. As Resende states:

Understanding the interdependence between coloniality and modernity favors not only a better understanding of the past, but also of the present, because it allows us to see how the colonial past extends to the current era. Silvia Federici (2017) sheds light on the contemporaneity mentioning the witch hunts in Europe, the privatization of productive lands, and the Bloody Code against people experiencing homelessness or begging in England, the colonization of territories and the extermination of American populations, and the beginning of human trafficking in the South Atlantic (2022, p.41).

These are data, among others, that can lead the reader to a deeper understanding of both the social situation that generates the problem and the selected speeches, representative of voices that circulate daily among us. Often, monologic (or authoritarian…) voices that. as we can see in the text itself, make the other invisible, denying their existence, or representing them in a dehumanized way. As Bakhtin says, “with a monologic approach (in its extreme or pure form) another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness.” (1984, p. 293).[1]

A white-walled building, a green metal railing, homeless people's tents, and a tree in front.

Image: From the authoress personal file.

Figure 1. At Alexandre de Gusmão Square in São Paulo – SP.

This objectification of the other is expressed in the ironic title of the first of the texts analyzed, “Os donos do largo de São Francisco” (The Owners of São Francisco Square), which is built mainly based on the metaphor of the street situation as a private appropriation of public space. In comparison with it, the last text analyzed, which maintains that it is not possible to propose any project for the issue of homelessness “without listening to thousands of people who experience it” – the other.

It is not the Bakhtinian theoretical approach, however, that underlies the analysis of the spatial metaphors present in the four opinion articles, but texts by Discourse Analysis theorists, especially Critical Discourse Analysis. Resende selects two categories of analysis: metaphor and representation of social actors.

The metaphors about the street situation and public policies are manually mapped in the four texts; by grouping them, the author presents us with how they indicate socio-culturally shared beliefs, values and attitudes, affective, personal, and even corporeal states. Represented as social actors, the homeless population appears in the texts from presuppositions of judgments about what they are or what they do.

The data collected in the articles dialogue with each other throughout the text and in the final considerations, which also involve a critique of the focus on the territory when dealing with such excluded people, when one is “faced with suffering, negation and routine violence from the violation of rights” (Resende, 2022, p.61). This attitude towards the dehumanization of the other again reminds us of Bakhtin’s words in a text in which he deals with the “personal answerable act”: “But even here I do not definitively abdicate my answerability in person; on the contrary, my representative and empowered status in itself takes into account my personal answerability….” (1993, p.52).[2]


[1] BAKHTIN, M. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. 8th printing. Translated by Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

[2] BAKHTIN, M. M. Toward a Philosophy of the Act. Translation and notes by Vadim Liapunov. Edited by Vadim Liapunov and Michael Holquist. Austin: Texas University Press, 1993.

To read the article, access

RESENDE, V.M. Law Against Rights? A Controversy in São Francisco Square Written in Folha de S. Paulo: Critical-Discursive Reflections. Bakhtiniana, Rev. Estud. Discurso [online]. 2022, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 39-66 [viewed 29 August 2022]. https://doi.org/10.1590/2176-4573p56079. Available from: https://www.scielo.br/j/bak/a/yXfXj6L6LX4bn8LnLV7m48N/

External links

Bakhtiniana. Journal of Discourse Studies – BAK: https://www.scielo.br/j/bak/

Bakhtiniana, vol. 17, no.3: https://www.scielo.br/j/bak/i/2022.v17n3/

Maria Helena Cruz Pistori – Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0751-3178

Paulo Rogério Stella – Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4494-6319


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PISTORI, M.H.C. Discourses about the excluded: to whom is the public space? [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2022 [viewed ]. Available from: https://humanas.blog.scielo.org/en/2022/08/29/discourses-about-the-excluded-to-whom-is-the-public-space/


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