When suspected rapists are detained in Brazil, they are frequently subject to brutal punishments: sodomy, torture, or summary execution. This article examines the competing logics of gender and justice that intersect in Brazilian prisons as authorities sometimes attempt to protect, and inmates almost always endeavor to punish, men who have been put behind bars in cases involving rape. Drawing on years of fieldwork conducted in multiple courtrooms and prisons in a small state in northeastern Brazil, the article describes the strategies of concealment prison administrators and court officials use—or deliberately fail to use—to shield prisoners from being identified as rapists. At the same time, the essay documents the brutal ways that inmates punish peers who have been revealed as perpetrators of sexual assault. Ultimately, the article argues that power in Brazil’s male prisons, like power in Brazilian society more broadly, cannot be understood without considering who has the authority to define and to punish acts of sexual violence.
Power, Privilege, and the (Extrajudicial) Punishment of Rape in Brazil
Kristen Drybread is a cultural anthropologist based at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has written on prison rapes and murders, political corruption, and the meanings of unremarked graves. Her current project examines relationships between citizenship and violence in Brazil.
K. Drybread; Power, Privilege, and the (Extrajudicial) Punishment of Rape in Brazil. Public Culture 1 January 2020; 32 (1): 163–183. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7816341
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