Rethinking Youth Culture, Politics, and the Armed Struggle during the Brazilian Civilian-Military Dictatorship, 1964–85

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:30 AM
Old Town Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
James N. Green, Brown University
In recent years, many scholars who have worked on the history of the Brazilian civilian-military dictatorship (1964-85), as well as former participants in diverse political movements against the regime, have focused on the ways in which armed struggle activities offered resistance and radical opposition. Many of these works tend to glorify the role that revolutionaries played in fighting against the authoritarian state, while underplaying their romanticism, isolation, rigidity, sectarianism, and at times authoritarian practices. Few examine everyday life for militants engaged in underground activities and its relationship to politics. Other scholars have emphasized the cultural movements, such as tropicália, pop music, Black funk, and countercultural expressions, as important pockets of contestation against the regime’s censorship, conservative moral worldview, and arbitrary policies. To some of these scholars, these forms of everyday and cultural opposition to the civilian-military dictatorship offered alternative ways to challenge authoritarian rule that understood politics in a much broader context than direct confrontations or interactions with the state. This paper examines the intersections of the different social, political, and cultural changes that were taking place within middle-class Brazilian youth culture in the 1960s and 70s, as a minority of student and other activists decided to engage in a guerrilla strategy to end the dictatorship, another sector opted for countercultural alternatives, and a majority continue their lives as usual, while becoming avid consumers of popular culture. The paper examines how issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and comportment were understood by the revolutionary left and considers the impact of countercultural and “alternative” voices in the process of democratization that took place in the late 1970s and early 80s.
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