Figures of Containment: State institutions and sexual accusation policies

Camila Fernandes About the author


This article demonstrates how a discourse of accusation and accountability on "irresponsible" female sexuality is structured within public institutions. The discussion is based on an ethnography of public day-care in a favela complex in the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro. I present the main steps for obtaining access to vacancies in the nursery, and the strategies and battles waged by the families trying to get a place. I follow how some situations are driven by a "pedagogy of embarrassment", in which scenes of negative, public lambasting and moral lessons make up a field of tensions between employees and the women who use the service. The relation between women is marked by the ambivalence of administrative acts that, while tending to the needs of children, is shot through with censure and moral humiliation. In the end of the article, I analyse the presence of a "Female state", an action that mixes loving qualities commonly related to femininity with the practice of coercion and the admonition of bodies.

Key words:
women; reproduction; sexuality; State; accusation

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