Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Donna M. Goldstein

Second Advisor

Lorecia K. Roland

Third Advisor

Jennifer Shannon


Reflecting Brazil’s history of social and economic inequality, a majority of women and gender non-conforming individuals (GNCIs) incarcerated in São Paulo, Brazil are people of African descent, poor, and from marginalized communities. My ethnographic research investigates cisgender women’s experiences with institutional violence in the criminal justice system (CJS) of São Paulo, Brazil. This dissertation asks: (1) What are the effects of structural violence on detained cis women and GNCIs? (1A) What are the effects of incarceration on formerly detained women and what are some of the ways in which they resist the sequelae of violence incarceration engenders? (2) How, if at all, are new policies such as pre-trial custody hearings mitigating the long-standing culture of structural violence within the CJS? (3) How is the historical/social practice of criminalizing Black women in Brazil linked to their policing and mass-incarceration presently? (3A) What are some of the ways in which Black feminist women in São Paulo shed light on the injustices their marginalized communities face at the hands of law enforcement? To address these research questions, I draw from ethnographic fieldwork, critical prison studies, as well as medical anthropology literatures on institutional violence. I argue that there are socio-economic incentives to incarcerate Black women, a practice that is in line with anti-Black state policies that condone police violence against Black communities. My research contributes to scholarship on marginalized women’s experience of criminalization and justice in the 21st century.

Available for download on Thursday, January 27, 2022