In scholarship on informal politics in Brazil, clientelism is a well-studied phenomenon. While studies of clientelism generally concentrate on elections, campaigning and vote buying, clientelist practices and their impact extend well beyond this temporal and thematic focus. This article develops an approach that builds on theories of brokerage in anthropology and social network studies. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in low-income neighbourhoods in Recife, Brazil, it shows how clientelism is based on informal exchanges both within and outside election periods. Through a study of community leaders, their projects and their search for resources, the article advances a more comprehensive understanding of how clientelism works as a social mechanism in the ordering of life in these neighbourhoods.
- Northeast Brazil
- community leaders