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Adilson Moreira

Adilson José Moreira

S.J.D. 2013

Graduate Fellow, LLM Advisor, 2010-2012

amoreira at


Racial Politics in Brazil: Exposing the Unequal Past, Building an Egalitarian Future

My dissertation approaches legal decisions as social narratives in order to explore the connections between discourse structures and structures of power in the Brazilian affirmative action cases. Two conflicting conceptions of race influence the current debate about racial policies in Brazil. One represents the country as a racially harmonious society and equates race neutrality with formal equality in order to condemn race-conscious measures. The other recognizes the social significance of race and classifies affirmative action programs as legitimate initiatives that seek to eliminate historical processes of racial stratification. By examining the role of sociological and historical arguments in the process of legal reasoning, my project scrutinizes the ways in which the Brazilian courts articulate racial theories and equal protection analysis. This investigation is of fundamental importance in understanding how the discourse of race neutrality subverts the emancipatory ideals that inform the Brazilian Constitution.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Race and Law, with Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Legal History, with Professor Kenneth Mack, Harvard Law School
  • Sociology of Race, with Professor Orlando Patterson, Faculty of Arts and Sciences – Harvard University
  • Brazilian History, with Professor Kenneth Maxwell, Faculty of Arts and Sciences – Harvard University

Additional Research Interests

  • Constitutional Law
  • Comparative Constitutional Law
  • Family Law
  • Antidiscrimination Law
  • Legal Theory
  • Law and Sexual Orientation
  • Human Rights
  • Political Philosophy
  • Gender Studies
  • Law and Postcolonialism


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2006-2013
  • Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Doctoral Degree, 2007
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. 2005
  • Federal University of Minas Gerais, LL.B. 1999

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, 2008-2009; 2009-2010; 2010-2011, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Summer Fellowship Research Program, Harvard Law School, May – August 2010
  • Catholic Pontifical University of Minas Gerais, Lecturer, 2003-2004
  • Yale Law School, Visiting Researcher, June 2002–June 2003
  • Public Prosecution of Minas Gerais Graduate School, Lecturer, 2001-2003
  • National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Graduate Fellow, May 1999–March 2001

Representative Publications


Book Chapters

  • The Myth of White Innocence in the Brazilian Affirmative Action Debate: A Critical Analysis. In Right to Difference and Legal Protection of Minorities. Forthcoming, Spring 2012
  • The Various Meanings of Equality in the Brazilian Equal Protection Jurisprudence. In: Bruno Dantas; Eliane Cruxên; Fernando Santos; Gustavo Ponce de Leon Lago. (eds.). The 1988 Constituttion: Brazil 20 Year Latter. Brasília: Senado Federal, Instituto Legislativo Brasileiro, 2008.
  • Foucault and Genealogy. In GUSTIN, Miracy Barbosa de Sousa (ed.), Legal History: new perspectives and directions. Belo Horizonte: Mandamentos, 2007.


Representative Citations

Court Decisions



  • Tanya Katery Hernandez, The Value of Intersectional Comparative Analysis to the “Post-Racial” Future of Critical Race Theory: A Brazil-U.S. Comparative Case Study. 43 CONN. L. REV 1407 (2011)
  • Allen C. Unzelman, Latin America Update: The Development of Same-Sex Marriage and Adoptions Laws in Mexico and Latin America. 17 LAW & BUS. REV. AM. 135 2011
  • Dorothy A. Harbeck, Asking and Telling: Identity and Persecution in Sexual and/or Gender Orientation Asylum Claims – Immutable Characteristics and Concepts of Persecution Under US Asylum Law. 25 GEO. IMMIGR. L.J. 117 (2010)

Works in Progress

  • Race and Social Transformation: Rethinking Critical Race Theory [Book Project]

  • Sparking Social Change: New Formulations of Citizenship in the Brazilian Equal Protection Jurisprudence [Book Project]
  • Women as Legal Fictions: Ideas of Motherhood in Brazilian Custody Cases [Article]

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, Portuguese (native), French, Italian, Spanish (reading)

Last Updated: March 12, 2015