Sex, Morality, Anticommunism: Revisiting the History of Brazil's Military Regime

The LLILAS Benson Brazil Center presents author and historian of Brazil Benjamin Cowan, who will discuss Brazil’s 1968 and its aftermath. According to Cowan, this period demonstrates the ways in which Cold War struggles against “subversion” must be understood in cultural terms, as a reaction to the consequences—real and perceived—of modernization. Inscribing Brazil’s Cold War military dictatorship (1964–1985) into a century-long, transnational trajectory of right-wing activism, Cowan’s research demonstrates that anti-modern moral panic animated powerful, hardline members and supporters of the military regime. As these hardliners institutionalized state-sponsored anti-Marxist violence, their moral panic conflated communist subversion with cultural changes based in modernization itself. Combining Cold War and culture war, rightists focused their anticommunism on specific gendered and sexualized areas of concern: “modern” youth, women, and mass media. 

Cowan received his BA from Harvard University and his MA and PhD from UCLA. His interest in right-wing radicalism, morality, sexuality, and twentieth-century imperialism has led him to research focused on Cold War Brazil, with a specialization in the cultural and gender history of the post-1964 era. Cowan’s book Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) has won book awards from the Latin American Studies Association, the Southern Historical Association, and the Southeastern Conference on Latin American Studies.

In 2015, his research on counterinsurgency earned the Sturgis-Leavitt Award for the best article from SECOLAS. He has also published articles in American QuarterlyThe Journal of the History of SexualityThe Hispanic American Historical ReviewRadical History ReviewLatin American Research Review, and other venues. In addition to his book and published essays, Cowan co-edited a special issue of the Radical History Review. He is currently writing a second monograph illuminating the rise of the contemporary Right as a Brazilian and transnational process.

For more information, contact Paloma Díaz.

To RSVP and receive event updates on Facebook, visit Sex, Morality, and Anticommunism.

Monday, March 4, 2019 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Texas Union Building (UNB), Sinclair Suite (UNB 3.128)
2247 Guadalupe, Austin, Texas 78705

Event Type

Arts & Humanities, Policy & Law


College of Liberal Arts

Target Audience

Students, Faculty, General Public



Free and open to the public

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