Sunday, January 4, 2009
East Ballroom Foyer (Hilton New York)
The curtain of authoritarian rule that descended on the Americas at the height of the Cold War has led generations of scholars to scrutinize the local and global vectors that converged, for example, in Brazil (1964), in Chile (1973), and in Argentina (1976). A tenuous consensus attributes these dramatic moments and their aftereffects to political and economic sets of ideas known broadly as National Security Ideologies. This consensus, however, has failed to illuminate the ways in which such ideologies developed and functioned in peculiarly _closed_ transnational circuits, what we might call “contact zones” self-consciously obsessed with an idea that transcended languages as easily as it did national borders: _subversăo_, _subversión_, subversion. Essential to the existence of these contact zones—and, as I will argue, to the consensus on repressive state violence that they spawned—were the ways that they facilitated a potent and even intoxicating combination of local and global anxieties about gender, morality, sexuality, generational change, and modernity. Delving into previously unexplored military archives, as well as into the collections of right-wing civilian organizations, my research illuminates—in the particular case of Brazil's post-1964 military state—the role of a transnationally venerated ideal of moralistic, even pre-modern masculinity in grounding and retrenching the most reactionary of anticommunist and authoritarian perspectives, from Washington to Rio de Janeiro. My poster exhibit will incorporate iconic visual and textual images of the period into a presentation that seeks to highlight how such images were interpreted and redeployed as core elements sustaining the ideological superstructure of the Brazilian dictatorship. Subversion—_subversăo_—the justificatory, conceptual enemy against whom military, paramilitary, and civilian conservatives directed unwavering suspicion, invective, and violence (both official and extra-legal), had various, occasionally contradictory manifestations in this context. My work will explore the ways that particularly salient local anxieties about sexual, moral, and class revolution engaged certain global interlocutors and operated within a strictly defined, anticommunist intellectual community that lent credence and legitimacy to theories linking communist subversion to, for example, moral and physical decadence. My presentation will thus speak not only to the roots of this specific experiment in state violence, but to the ways in which global intellectual currents furnished—intentionally as well as inadvertently—the necessary cultural-ideological framework within which such violence constituted part of a functional logic.