Democracy as the negation of discourse

Liberalism, clientelism, and agency in Brazil

by Aaron Ansell

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People enact democracy when they undermine their customary speech forms. This is evident in a small municipality in rural northeastern Brazil, where village-dwelling cultivators and town activists are abandoning the practice of displaying electoral propaganda on their private homes because it evokes the shrill voices of domineering politicians and haranguing neighbors. An analysis of local associations among propaganda images, unpleasant voices, and broader genres of political communication finds that the widespread abandonment of propaganda images dramatizes the tension between liberal and illiberal imaginings of democracy in contemporary Brazil.