Department of Anthropology

Andrea S. Allen: "Emotionality, Erotic Embodiment, and Violence in Lesbian Relationships in Salvador, Brazil"

Mon, March 3, 2014 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

This lecture, based upon evidence gathered through fifteen months of fieldwork in Salvador, Brazil, will discuss the ways in which Brazilian lesbian women both disturb and reinscribe Brazilian cultural mores surrounding sexuality, gender roles, and violence.  Unlike heterosexual women, Brazilian lesbian women are able to embody cultural norms that emphasize sexual dominance and sexual freedom as integral aspects of Brazilian male authority, privilege, and even Brazilian identity as a whole.  Similarly, Brazilian lesbians are more able to exemplify Brazilian values of emotionality and “erotic embodiment” that are based upon these conceptions of dominance than heterosexual women are.  The experiences and perspectives of lesbian women about traição (betrayal) or infidelity, for example, illustrate the influence of these cultural norms on lesbian women’s behavior in Salvador.  Relatedly, the lecture will argue that the prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the relationships of the lesbian women in this study reflects a reproduction of Brazilian cultural ideals that associate passion, intensity, and power with physical violence and masculinity.  Even though lesbian women are able to embody Brazilian masculinist norms, they also threaten those norms through their perceived rejection of heterosexual relationships, and, by extension, Brazilian patriarchal power.  By focusing on lesbian women’s experiences with IPV, I encourage a broader discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of considering how physical aggression can both challenge and reinforce traditional gender ideologies. 


Andrea S. Allen teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research at the University of Western Ontario. She received a M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on anthropology of religion and a Ph.D. in Cultural and Medical Anthropology from Harvard University.  She is an anthropologist who has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil and with Brazilian immigrants in the Boston area.  Dr. Allen is currently working on a book manuscript, “We Are Phantasms”: Violence and Desire in Brazilian Lesbian Relationships, which examines lesbian women’s experiences with intimate partner violence in Salvador, Brazil.  She has also published on the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé. 

For further information please contact Adriana Dingman at


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