Student thesis: Phd


This thesis asks why contemporary disappearances in Brazil are not problematized. The politicisation of disappearances only makes visible cases involving leftist guerrilla members during the dictatorship (1964-1985). After that, disappearance started to be classed by the media as massacre or slaughter. The disappearance of those from poor peripheries and favelas tends to be normalised as happening to those deserving death. By examining the actions by the police, I examine how the security apparatus has developed over time in Brazil embodying notions of race rooted in the country’s colonial past. By analysing contemporary disappearances against the backdrop of disappearances which occurred during the dictatorship, this thesis explores how continuous notions of race and space are implicated in actions by the security apparatus in the country. The analysis engages with the concept of sovereign power over life and death considering the “war on drugs” as a state of exception as discussed by Giorgio Agamben as well as with a postcolonial critique from Achile Mbembe (2003) and a decolonial critique from Walter Mignolo (2000) to address the normalisation of death of certain populations. Thus, the historical development of the police in Brazil is an important part of the state apparatus which embodies sovereign decision. In that context, race plays a predominant role as it is first articulated in the colonial slave trade, and later to legitimise discourses on dangerous populations, associating racialised communities to drug trafficking. Also important are the implications of police actions in racialised communities such as favelas and peripheries in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Agamben’s and Mbembe’s concepts of apparatus, life, space and necropolitics are developed through an investigation of contemporary disappearances. As a theoretical framework, these concepts enable an analysis of how sovereign decision operates through forms of policing, and how racialised lives are deemed unworthy.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaja Zehfuss (Supervisor) & Andreja Zevnik (Supervisor)


  • Brazil
  • disappearances
  • race
  • state apparatus

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