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Desirée Poets

Desirée Poets, Assistant Professor

Desirée Poets
Desirée Poets, Assistant Professor

Department of Political Science
531 Major Williams Hall (0130)
220 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-6571 |


Desirée Poets is assistant professor of postcolonial theory at the Department of Political Science and a core faculty of the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) PhD Program. Through ethnographically informed, critical, and collaborative methods, Poets has been working with urban Indigenous, favela, and maroon (in Portuguese, quilombola) communities and movements in Brazil’s Southeast Region since 2013. Her research focuses on settler colonial, postcolonial, and dependency theories in Latin America; urban (de-)militarization; arts, collective memory and community change, and questions of gender, ethnicity, class, and race. 

Poets’ manuscript, Unsettling Brazil, develops the notion of militarized dependent settler capitalism, the interdependent internal and external structures within, against, and beyond which urban Black and Indigenous struggles in Brazil take place. Poets asks: What does it mean to talk about decolonization in a settler context marked by dependent capitalism? Staying with this question, Poets’ work has turned to community-produced arts and collective memory practices as sites that move beyond the limits of critique and offer some direction in the journey toward decolonization. She is a co-curator of the Maré from the Inside physical and virtual art exhibit, and co-principal investigator of a research lab on community art, memory, and development in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Postcolonial, Decolonial, and Settler Colonial Theories
  • Race, Ethnicity, Class and Gender 
  •  (De-)Militarization, Carcerality and Abolitionism
  • Arts and Community Change (especially Social/New Museology)
  • Collaborative and Critical Methods
  • PhD in International Politics, Aberystwyth University
  • MScEcon in Postcolonial Politics, Aberystwyth University
  • BScEcon in International Politics with Economics, Aberystwyth University
  • 2019-2020 El Centro Faculty Fellow
  • Editor Collaborator for Catalytic Communities (CatComm) NGO’s Rio On Watch
  • Member of the Abolition Journal’s publication collective/editorial board
  • 2020-2021 Inaugural Juneteenth Scholar of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
  • 2015 Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) Harold Blakemore Prize for Best Postgraduate Essay. 


  • Poets, Desiree. Unsettling Brazil: Urban Indigenous and Black Resistances to Settler Colonialism, Dependent Capitalism, and Militarization. Under Review with University of Alabama Press.

Edited Books

  • Maré from the Inside: Art, Culture, and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Nicholas Barnes and Max Stephenson (eds.). Blacksburg: Virginia Tech Publishing. In Portuguese: Maré de Dentro: Arte, Cultura e Política no Rio de Janeiro.

Book Chapters

  • Poets, Desiree (forthcoming). “Race and Racism in Brazil” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by John Solomos. London: Routledge.
  • Desiree Poets. 2020. “Failing in the Reflexive and Collaborative Turns: Empire, colonialism, gender and the impossibilities of North-South collaborations.” In Fieldwork as Failure: International Relations Knowledge in/from the Field, edited by Katarina Kusic and Jakub Zahora. Bristol: E-International Relations.
  • Desiree Poets. 2018. “Race, Ethnicity and the State: Contemporary Quilombos in Brazil’s Settler Colonial Present” in Robbie Shilliam and Olivia Rutazibwa (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics. London: Routledge.

Journal Articles

  • Poets, Desiree (2021). “Citizenship and Settler Colonialism in Brazil: The Toré Ritual as a Decolonial Indigenous Practice in the Northeast Region” in Citizenship Studies (online first). DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2021.1984504.
  • Amaral, Aiko Ikemura, Philipp Horn, and Desiree Poets (2021). “Introduction: Indigenous Urbanisation and Indigenous Peoples in the City” in Bulletin of Latin Research (BLAR) (Special Issue Guest Editors).  DOI: 10.1111/blar.13296 
  • Poets, Desiree (2021). “Settler Colonialism and/in (Urban) Brazil: Black and Indigenous Resistances to the Logic of Elimination” in Settler Colonial Studies 11 (3): 271-291 (online first: 2020). DOI: 10.1080/2201473X.2020.1823750.
  • Poets, Desiree (2020). “Curating Against Militarization: The Politics of Life in Rio de Janeiro’s Museu da Maré” in Critical Military Studies 6 (3-4): 397-413. DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2020.1771940.
  • Poets, Desiree (2017). “This is Not a Favela: Rio de Janeiro’s Urban Quilombo Sacopã and the Limits of Multiculturalism” in Bulletin of Latin American Research 36 (4): 409-423. DOI: 10.1111/blar.12561.
  • Poets, Desiree (2015). “The Securitization of Citizenship in a ‘Segregated City’: A Reflection on Rio’s Pacifying Police Units” in URBE - Revista Brasileira de Gestão Urbana 7 (2): 182-194. DOI: 10.1590/2175-3369.007.002.SE03 ISSN 2175-3369.
  • Departmental Diversity Grant Award (Virginia Tech) awarded to “Maré from the Inside: Art, Culture and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” artistic and research project (9,000 USD). 2021.
  • Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention (CPSVP, Virginia Tech), awarded to “Curating for De-militarization: Memory, Arts, and Community Change in Maré, Rio de Janeiro” as Co-PI with Prof Max Stephenson, Jr. (10,000 USD). 2020.
  • Mentoring Program for New Faculty Members Award (1500 USD), Virginia Tech. Mentor: Prof Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota.
  • College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences International Travel Support (1000 USD), Virginia Tech, for fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in July/August 2019. 
  • Economic and Society Research Council (ESRC) Overseas Fieldwork Grant (2014-2016).

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