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Keywords:

  • cooperative recycling;
  • empowerment;
  • emotional geographies;
  • hegemonic domination;
  • Brazil

This study, set in the context of a group of recycling cooperatives in the greater metropolitan region of São Paulo, Brazil, is about the relationship between emotional geographies and notions of empowerment. Paying attention to the ways that emotional expressions of empowerment deconstruct and subvert oppressive relations of power, while simultaneously reproducing and obscuring these same oppressive hegemons, we ask: what emotions are collectively felt by those who ascribe to the movement? And more importantly, what do these collective emotions do? How do emotions align individuals with particular collective values, and how do these emotions work in relation to systems of domination? Due to the cooperatives' location within Brazilian hegemonic systems of social domination, we argue that viewing empowerment as an emotion ‘I feel empowered’ rather than something one is or one achieves ‘I am empowered’ offers the space to consider the necessarily paradoxical nature of empowerment.