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Beatriz Santos Barreto

Research Project: Inner dilemmas of LGBTI+ movements in Brazil: a queer intersectional approach

In 2015, I completed my MA in Gender Analysis in International Development at the University of East Anglia. In my master’s dissertation I argued that when development initiatives do not challenge normative structures they become another tool that reinforces these structures, which diminishes development projects' reach and effectiveness.

My PhD research analyses LGBTI+ movements in Brazil, focusing on how complex identities and interests influence their creation, forms of organising, and strategies, thus impacting the goals they pursue and their limitations once achieved. My hypothesis is that internal power relations have a greater role in determining which arenas will be approached and how resources are mobilised than previously recognised in social movement theory. Specifically, I argue that LGBTI+ movements that developed strategies focused on NGOisation and/or working with(in) the state, although successful in acquiring a set of rights and public policies, later lacked political power, autonomy, and repertoire to contest political shifts to a conservative and antagonistic direction. Throughout my research, I question which subsets of the LGBTI+ community were benefited by the rights achieved through current mainstream strategies. In that, I argue that intra-movement power relations between intersectional identities are a determinant factor in movements’ strategic choices, and therefore in movements’ demands, actions, and gains. The decision to follow such strategies thus may also be informed by intersectional elements that determine which subsets of LGBTI+ movements have the material and cultural resources to approach the state and, later, to resist antagonistic backlashes. Further, I explore how intersections of gender, class, race, and religion have a deeper role than previously recognised in informing activists’ experiences with identity, activism, strategies, networks of care and futurities.

Brazil provides an opportunity to study LGBT politics, in a context where a set of rights that match international standards have been achieved but the stability and potential of these rights have been questioned, as many queer people find themselves in a status of sub-citizenship. At a time when progressive social movements are under attack by powerful national right-wing groups and the broader movement against ‘gender ideology’ in Latin America, it is paramount to question strategies and their ability to enact profound and long-lasting social change. In the realm of social movement theory, my research adds to our understanding of competing social movement’s interests and strategies by offering a framework that privileges an analysis of internal power relations in their continual interaction with other internal and external causal mechanisms that facilitate, constrain, and shape collective action.

Research interests

Gender, sexuality, intersectionality, social movements, queer theory, judicialisation of politics, NGOisation of social movements, and queer methodologies.


I supervise for SOC 10 Gender, SOC 11 Race, Racism and Ethnicity, and POL 18 Gender and Politics

Published work

Santos Barreto, Beatriz. ‘Subcidadania LGBTQ e proteção social na pandemia de COVID-19’. Revista do NESEF 9, no. 2 (2020): 32–50.

My PhD is funded by the Cambridge Trust and a Hughes Hall PhD Scholarship