Grey Room

Does Bolsonaro Have a Point? (Or Does He Have a Semicolon?)

Maria José de Abreu

Digital image of bloody, slashed T-shirt with the campaign slogan “O meu partido é o Brasil” (My party is Brazil) circulated by the presidential campaign of Jair Bolsonaro, 2018. Flávio Bolsonaro via Instagram and Twitter.


The article is divided into three sections. In the first, I conceptualize the relation between wounding and media. In the second, I reframe the classic problem of sovereign immunity and the logic of protection in Bolsonarismo. In the last section, I elaborate a theory of media from Bolsonaro’s serial scarring by relating it to weaponized speech—for example, memes, slogans, aphorisms, but also other types of indexical gesturing such as the use of hands and fingers, whose aim is to puncture. Together, those lines of investigation support why a theopolitics of sovereign incision—rather than sovereign decision, as it is classically understood—is useful to think populist political form today.4 While definitions of sovereignty usually posit protection as a matter of “who decides on the state of exception,” what happens when ruling functions through the deliberate failure to offer protection? Can rhythmic incision, rather than transformative decision, be useful in understanding the cleaved grounds on which state authority operates? In so asking, I probe the stakes of media as instrument of a politics of spasm and cleaved speech that is agreeable to authoritarian neoliberalism in contemporary Brazil.