by Jay Sosa
University of Texas Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-1-4773-3010-4 | Paper: 978-1-4773-3011-1 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-3013-5
Library of Congress Classification HQ73.73.B6S68 2024


An ethnography and media analysis of LGBT+ activism in São Paulo during Brazil’s conservative turn from 2010 to 2018.

For decades, LGBT+ activists across the globe have secured victories by persuasively articulating rights to sexual autonomy. Brazilian activists, some of the world’s most energetic, have kept pace. But since 2010, a backlash has set in, as defenders of “tradition” and “family” have countered LGBT+ rights discourses using a rights-based language of their own.

To understand this shifting ground, Joseph Jay Sosa collaborated with Brazilian LGBT+ activists, who use the language of rights while knowing that rights are not what they seem. Drawing on the symbolic and affective qualities of rights, activists mobilize slogans, bodies, and media to articulate an alternative democratic sensorium. Beyond conventional notions of rights as tools for managing the obligations of states vis-à-vis citizens, activists show how rights operate aesthetically—enjoining the public to see and feel as activists do. Sosa tracks the fate of LGBT+ rights in a growing authoritarian climate that demands “human rights for the right humans.” Interpreting conflicts between advocates and opponents over LGBT+ autonomy as not just an ideological struggle but an aesthetic one, Brazil’s Sex Wars rethinks a style of politics that seems both utterly familiar and counterintuitive.