Crackland: Beyond Crack Cocaine


  • Marcel Segalla Bueno Arruda University of São Paulo
  • Cassia Baldini Soares University of São Paulo
  • Carla Andrea Trapé Faculty os America
  • Luciana Cordeiro University of São Paulo


Public Health, Drug Use, Crack Cocaine, Life History, Social Marginalization, Social Protection, Social Problems, Brazil


Background: Crackland is a central deteriorated neighborhood in São Paulo city, Brazil, a market of crack cocaine where marginalized people live or circulate. Objective: This study aims to characterize the social reproduction of subjects who visit or live in Crackland; b) analyze the life trajectory of these persons. Methods: The study embraces the theoretical and methodological perspective of historical and dialectical materialism, considering drug consumption a complex social process. This is a qualitative case study, utilizing in-depth interviews with ten individuals, nine men and one woman, contacted by the snowball technique in Crackland. We collected the life histories of the individuals and a set of variables of social reproduction in order to compose the Social Reproduction Index (SRI) of the individuals’ families, allocating them to different social groups. Results: The results show that the individuals came from families with different SRI, and they came from various states of Brazil, having migrated for various reasons: threats to life, to escape imprisonment, political persecution and, especially, to seek better social conditions. With regard to drug use, seven reported using crack cocaine and other illicit drugs. People in Crackland are primarily exposed to impoverishment and marginalization processes; they also face lack of social protection. We conclude that the occupants of Crackland are part of the lumpen proletariat, being marginal to most institutional social protection. They develop self-defense strategies and survive by working in informal and sporadic jobs, being active in many ways and even providing for their families of origin. Conclusion: Crack cocaine use is a small part of that process. Instead of the effects of the drugs on the brain or individual subjectivity, the study brings to light the social issue as the central category for understanding the “social subjects” who constitutes Crackland.


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Original Research