Research Agenda

My research focuses on social movements, urban violence and uneven development in the Americas. I am primarily an ethnographer, but also conduct survey research and policy analysis. I am especially committed to including Participatory Action Research, including my participants in the construction and dissemination of scholarship. I am currently working on two projects in Rio de Janeiro. The first looks at the relationship between race and knowledge production. The second documents the impact of the pandemic on Rio de Janeiro's favela residents, with a focus on Cidade de Deus. My next major project will explore the connections and configurations of emergent forms of activism in Tijuana and Baltimore. I am especially interested in considering how transnational activism has expanded along with transnational drug trafficking organizations to challenge state oppression and violent governance.

Activism Under Fire: The Politics of Non-Violence in Rio de Janeiro's Most Dangerous 'Favela'

Cidade de Deus is among Rio de Janeiro's most notorious favelas--poor, informal neighborhoods with a long history of violence by drug gangs and the state's aggressive police. Much has been written about the politics of urban violence, focused on how these 'specialists of violence' negotiate power over the territory and local governance structures. Meanwhile, scholars argue that residents not involved in gangs engage in a politics of survival, adapting and survival under extremely precarious conditions. This book project introduces a third field of study in gang territories: a politics of non-violence, through which favela residents engage in collective efforts that promote transformative change by rejecting violence as a tool for power. It is based on 'participatory ethnography' and survey research conducted between 2014 and 2017 in the City of God, made famous by the movie with the same name. By documenting three models of collective action in Rio's most dangerous neighborhood, the book demonstrates how a feminized counter-sphere of non-violence is helping to increasing social services, mobilizing for social development, and fighting for broader symbolic and structural changes across the urban landscape. 


Under contract with Oxford University Press for the Series on Global and Comparative Ethnography.


In 2017, Anjuli partnered with two City of God natives to design, administer, analyze and publish a survey (n=989) project in the City of God based on the principles of Participatory Action Research. The survey contains 85 questions related to social development, resilience, and insecurity. The project took place over four phases:

First, we held five focus groups and an online discussion with approximately 100 residents to identify the issues most relevant to their access to the services and institutions needed for their well-being and upward mobility. A questionnaire of 83 close-ended questions was developed and revised by another thirty residents.

Next, we hired and trained fifteen local residents from across the neighborhood to administer the survey. Our sample was collected on every street in the neighborhood and was representative of the gender, age, and geographic breakdown of the area.

After descriptive data was analyzed, local residents design a website and pamphlet with findings. Our research team then distributed 3,000 pamphlets to residents across the neighborhood. We presented results to organizations across the neighborhood and engaged in discussion and analysis of findings with local stakeholders.


The final report is available in Portuguese here.

For details and data, visit