The politics of human rights in Brazil: Imposition of norms from without or innovation from within?

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


International Studies

First Committee Member

William C. Smith - Committee Chair


This thesis analyzes the construction of human rights norms, institutions, and practices in Brazil. Bridging international relations and comparative politics, this study builds on the literature of socialization to international norms. The study argues that, in the post-transition context of democratic politics, state and societal actors and interests play a primordial role in the promotion of human rights. It also suggests that the adoption of human rights norms is not only the result of international pressure, but also the consequence of the instrumentalization of norms by domestic actors. To demonstrate the impact of domestic dynamics on Brazil's adaptation of international norms, the dissertation analyzes actors and political opportunity structures through three case-studies: police violence, racial discrimination, and AIDS. Brazil's leadership in human rights norms illustrates the changing role of the state and the convergence between "ought" and "want" in the current context of democratization and globalization. Moreover, the analysis suggests that the promotion of human rights norms in Brazil is the fruit of an emerging diplomacy of human rights and the construction of new, sui generis modes of collaboration between state and civil society actors. Finally, the dissertation advances the argument that a process of "human-rightization" is transforming human rights by progressively encompassing a broad ensemble of norms, practices, and issues.


Political Science, International Law and Relations

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text