Ephemeral Sovereignties and Vanishing Communities

Precariousness, Gender, and the Political in Paulo Lins’s Cidade de Deus


  • Fabricio Tocco Australian National University


In Cidade de Deus (1997), the Afro-Brazilian anthropologist Paulo Lins (Rio de Janeiro, 1958—) explores the effects of the illegal drug trade on City of God, a favela located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Building on different readings of Lins’s work (Schwarz, Fitzgibbon, and Lorenz) and on the work of other anthropologists and historians (Alves, Segato, and Dawson), this article provides a close reading of the novel, focusing on an understudied aspect: the intersections between precariousness, gender, and the political, specifically, the relationship between masculine brutality and state sovereignty. First, I examine the portrayal of young drug lords and the vanishing favela sense of community. I then delve into how Lins’s drug lords personify what I call “ephemeral sovereignties,” i.e.: inchoate incarnations of state power through disposable bodies. In Cidade de Deus, these volatile sovereignties manage to produce a vanishing community while simultaneously paving the way for its self-destruction.

Author Biography

Fabricio Tocco, Australian National University

Assistant Professor




How to Cite

Tocco, F. (2023). Ephemeral Sovereignties and Vanishing Communities: Precariousness, Gender, and the Political in Paulo Lins’s Cidade de Deus. Periphērica: Journal of Social, Cultural, and Literary History, 2(2). Retrieved from https://journals.oregondigital.org/peripherica/article/view/5828