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Article

Recently Brazil reached the mark of eight million university students, which represents around 4 percent of the population. Although this level is less than those in developed countries, it signifies an advance in relation to the country’s starting point. Unlike Spain, the Portuguese Empire did not create university institutions in its colonies. Following the Independence of Brazil in 1822, the new governing elite established some higher-level courses (initially medicine, law, and engineering), but these functioned in isolation, in other words, university institutions were not created. The first universities emerged only in the 1920s and were regulated during the Getúlio Vargas administration (1931). Since then, higher-level education has been the object of greater public attention—as well as political conflicts—due to both its role in development projects and its capacity to produce leaders. Between the 1940s and 1960s, university students became a relevant political force, having engaged in debates for university reform and also in favor of social changes, contributing to the process of political radicalization abruptly ended by the 1964 military coup. The dictatorship led by the military implemented an authoritarian modernization of the universities, repressing and purging the “undesirables” at the same time that it increased investment in research and graduate studies. The results were paradoxical, since although the dictatorship created a better structured university system, it was a more authoritarian and socially elitist one. The first post-dictatorial governments maintained the university structure inherited from the previous period, but they deteriorated due to a lack of public resources caused by hyperinflation and also by the intention of reducing public expenditure on higher education. The country managed to improve its higher-level institutions during the 20th century, which became strategic spaces for political battles and, for this reason, targets of constant state intervention. Despite the reforms and the expansion, universities were marked by elitism and social inequality, like Brazilian society itself, problems that only recently have started to be addressed. Only in the 21st century did Brazilian universities undergo a new expansionist phase, led by the center-left Brazilian governments which, in addition to expanding the public system, also invested in the inclusion of social sectors that previously had no access to higher education. It appears that this process may be interrupted, thanks to the “right turn” experienced by Brazil since 2016–2018.

Article

The Brazilian Estado Novo (New State) emerged from a coup led by then-President Getúlio Vargas with support from political and military groups. It was an enduring dictatorial regime (1937–1945), characterized by two distinct political moments. In the first phase, sympathy for European totalitarian regimes was evident. In addition to the violent repression of communist/socialist movements and other opponents, political propaganda—inspired by the Goebbelsian model—was put into practice: civic and sporting events, posters, and films encouraged patriotism and a cult of personality. In this period, because of the promulgation of an array of labor laws demanded by workers since the beginning of the century, Vargas was given the epithet “Father of the Poor.” The second phase began in 1942, when Brazil entered World War II in support of the Allies who fought against Nazi-fascist regimes. The contradiction of a dictatorial government in Brazil struggling for democracy abroad was patent, which contributed to the delegitimation of the regime and, consequently, the end of the dictatorship.

Article

Far-right movements, groups, and parties are a constant in Brazilian history. Following the first moment in which we can identify the presence of the radical right in Brazil (1889), its history had several phases and moments: ultraconservative movements and monarchists in the early years of the Old Republic (1889–1930), reactionary leagues fighting socialism and the labor movement during and after World War I (1917–1922) and the first groups and fascist movements (1922–1932). In the 1930s, in turn, the formation of the largest fascist movement outside Europe, Integralism (1932–1938), and Getúlio Vargas’s Estado Novo (1937–1945) represented the peak of the far right in the country, when it almost became a valid alternative to power. Between 1945 and 1964, the far right rebuilt itself in reactionary Catholic and anti-communist groups, close or not to neofascism. Under the military dictatorship of 1964–1985, it was in the fringes of power, remaining in the shadows after the redemocratization in 1985. In the 21st century, in turn, it acquired power and visibility, equaling or perhaps even surpassing that of the 1930s. Recent Brazilian historiography, after attempts to reconstruct the history of the national right wing, has been moving toward a comparative approach in order to understand the dialogue between the national and the international within the specific field of the radical right. Dialogue is a fitting term, since the far right in Brazil was never completely original, but nor was it simply a copy of a foreign model. It is the role of the historian to understand this dialogue through the investigation of the links and mechanisms of transmission of ideas, concepts, and perspectives, the symbolic and material exchanges, between the world and Brazil.

Article

The struggle for transitional justice in Brazil has faced various roadblocks since the country’s return to democracy in the mid-1980s. The military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985 employed brutal political repression against civilians deemed “subversives.” For years, however, the state had persistently disregarded claims to hold perpetrators accountable. This was mostly the result of an extremely negotiated and military-controlled transition to democracy, marked by political continuities and legal impunity to human rights violators. Effective campaigns by civil society organizations and families of the dictatorship’s victims finally led the Brazilian state to implement constrained policies of transitional justice. Between 1995 and 2010, the state officially recognized the dictatorship’s practices of torture and forced disappearance, as well as offered reparations to the victims. A national truth commission was ultimately established in 2012, culminating in an extensive final report that illuminated the dictatorship’s systemic repression and recommended holding its key perpetrators accountable. Yet the Brazilian armed forces strongly repudiated the commission’s work and actively curbed attempts to prosecute human rights violators. Frustrated by the state’s protracted implementation of transitional justice, human rights advocates sought alternative routes to accountability and truth-seeking. Some pressured professional organizations to discipline members complicit in the dictatorship’s repression. Others formed local truth commissions in municipalities, universities, unions, and corporations across the country to broaden and enhance the work of the national commission. Brazil thus experienced a particularly gradual and decentralized trajectory of transitional justice.

Article

In the early twentieth century, Brazil depended on coffee exports, its slave regime had just been abolished, and most of its inhabitants lived in the countryside. The Catholic Church exercised the moral direction of society, and White landowners virtually established the rules of sociability and controlled economic and political life. A woman’s social position was fundamentally determined according to their social class. Wealthy and White middle-class women had access to some form of education, and when they left the family home, it was to marry and raise a family, being completely dependent on their husbands, with no political rights, and only allowed to work upon marital authorization. With rapid urbanization, wretched working conditions, as either a domestic servant or a textile worker (the two female labor niches), worsened the lives of poor women in the city. Access to education, the struggle for labor rights, and the right to vote were the pillars of the long women’s emancipation process that was in progress. In 1964 a military coup plunged Brazil into a long dictatorship that only ended in 1985 with the return of democratic institutions and the election of a civil president. The conquest of democracy was made with the broad participation of the various women’s groups and movements, especially the feminist movements.

Article

Emilio Peluso Neder Meyer and Maria Guiomar da C. Frota

Digital resources for Brazilian legal history in the early 21st century cover an essential range of subjects. Official or institutional websites dominate the archives that allow users to research diverse themes, from the administration of the Portuguese colonies to the documents produced by truth commissions. Many of them are open access, fostering the democratization of the archives. To assess the most relevant ones, one must consider funds, collections, documents, and their accessibility and usability, as well as the limits for accessing Brazilian historical legal documents on the internet. Researchers of Brazilian legal history must consider the dominance of official narratives that can neglect the interpretations of other actors such as minorities. The colonial period is covered by digital resources with archives that were produced in Spain or Portugal but also by the Brazilian National Library and National Archives. The Historical Archives of the House of Deputies presents relevant resources for the period of the Brazilian Empire. The First and Second Republics historical periods count on collections of judicial rulings provided with easy and free access. The period of partial democratization between 1946 and 1964, the Brazilian dictatorship of 1964–1985, and the Third Republic that came after the Brazilian 1988 Constitution are part of a significant number of digital resources also easily accessible. Presupposing the necessity of effectiveness to the right of access to information, the process of digitalization of legal resources was consolidated and became a general practice. It dominated a wide range of institutional archives. Nonetheless, researchers must be aware of governmental limits, revisionist theories, and insufficient funding for Brazilian legal digital resources.

Article

The Opening the Archives Digital Collection on the history of US–Brazilian relations contains 50,000 documents about the two countries during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964–1985) at the height of the Cold War. Student researchers, under the leadership of James N. Green, Professor of Brazilian History and Culture at Brown University, have scanned and indexed thousands of records from the presidential libraries of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, as well as from the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Department, among other institutions and organizations. This digital archive affords researchers access to U.S. sources that register the decisions of Washington policymakers as they responded to the rise of radicalism in the early 1960s and the establishment of an authoritarian regime in 1964, which lasted twenty-one years. Materials include documentation on U.S. economic and military aid programs, analyses of the political situation in Brazil, and evaluations of the opposition to the generals in power. Other archives record U.S. labor organizations’ programs directed toward Brazilian trade unions. A collection of dossiers registering information on high-ranking Brazilian military officers, which was compiled by the U.S. Defense Department, provides insights into the relations between the Pentagon and the Brazilian Armed Forces. With the ultimate goal of publishing 100,000 records, the project reflects Brown University’s deep commitment to fostering collaborative relationships in international research projects while strengthening the university’s goal of becoming a leading center for the study of Brazil in the United States. Designed to give universal open access to these archives for researchers, the project is sponsored by Brown University Libraries in partnership with the State University of Maringá, Paraná, and Bem-te-vi Diversidade in São Paulo.

Article

The history of exhibitions in Brazil during the 1960s and 1970s provides a key reference point for understanding how artistic vanguards and contemporary art unfolded in direct relationship to social and political contexts. The seminal exhibitions during these pivotal decades elucidate how the contemporary in Brazilian art stages and reframes conceptions of the “new” vis-à-vis the art object. The exhibitions in question trace the development of Ferreira Gullar’s não-objeto (non-object, 1959) and its path toward the idea-based artwork, an impulse that was prevalent throughout the 1960s in the United States and Europe as well. Inaugurated by the emergence of Brasília, Brazil’s new capital city in the formerly barren hinterlands of the state of Goiás, the 1960s witnessed a new model of artistic practice that pushed the boundaries between art and life, actively seeking out the participation of the viewer. This is most evidenced in the canonical work of artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. By the 1970s, challenges to the utopian undertakings from the previous decades had become imbricated with political activism, as artists and intellectuals alike pronounced a commitment to the quest for democracy after the military coup of 1964. The 1970s also witnessed heightened artistic engagement with new information and communication technologies, including the use of video equipment and computers. Constructing the history of Brazil’s contemporary art via the most important moments of its display will not only historically and politically contextualize some of the groundbreaking artists and artworks of these two decades, but also introduce readers to the challenges that these artworks posed to the more traditional methods of institutional display and the criteria used to interpret them.

Article

Since its establishment in 1889, the history of the Brazilian republic was marked by the centrality of the armed forces, particularly the army, in political life. But between 1964 and 1985, the military was in direct command of the state, imposing indirectly elected generals as president. After overthrowing the reformist center-left government of João Goulart on March 31, 1964, the military installed a tutelary authoritarian regime to control civil society and the political system, serving as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War. The military passed arbitrary laws and severely repressed left-wing political groups and social movements while also seeking to accelerate capitalist development and the “national integration” of Brazil’s vast territory. They intended to modernize Brazilian industry and carry out bold infrastructure projects. On the other hand, they faced strong opposition from civil society, led by political groups, artists, intellectuals, and press outlets of diverse ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided between total refusal to negotiate with the military and critical adherence to the policies of the generals’ governments, composing a complex relationship between society and the state. Understanding the role of the military regime in Brazilian history requires a combination of historical research and historiographic criticism in light of the disputes over memory that continue to divide social and political actors.

Article

As the number of favelas and poor residents of Rio de Janeiro grew quickly by the mid-20th century, they became the object of policymaking, social science research, real estate speculation, and grassroots mobilization. After a decade in which local authorities recognized the de facto presence of favelas but without legally ascertaining the right of permanence, the 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the era of mass eradication. Seemingly contradictory—but complementary—policies also included the development of massive low-income housing complexes and innovative community development and favela urbanization experiences empowered by community organizations with the assistance of experts committed to improving the lives of poor Cariocas (residents of Rio). Favelas in Rio were at the crossroads of a particular interplay of forces: the urgent need to modernize Rio’s obsolete and inadequate urban infrastructure; the new administrative status of the city after the inauguration of Brasilia; and the redefinition of the balance of power between local, municipal, and federal forces in a time of radical politics and authoritarian and technocratic military regimes, Cold War diplomacy, and the transnational flows of expertise and capital.

Article

Twentieth-century science and technology in Brazil were marked by the building of new institutions of higher education, research, and research funding as well as by the professionalization of scientific practice in the country. Most of these changes were state driven and state funded, while some support came from foreign philanthropic foundations and states and, on a smaller scale, from the private sector. The mid-20th-century was when most activity took place, for instance the founding of the University of São Paulo, as a reaction of the state of São Paulo to national political changes in 1930, and the establishment of funding agencies such as Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), as initiatives of the federal government. Throughout the century the institutionalization of science moved from a strictly pragmatic model toward the acknowledgement of science as the professional activity required for the production of new knowledge. In Brazil the development of science has been marked by a succession of ups and downs closely following economic cycles and political times, albeit not perfectly synchronously. Therefore, a major brain drain began in 1960 during a democratic regime, and the 1964 military dictatorship restrained civil rights while supporting science from 1970 on. Chronological limits in this history are not turning points. On the one hand, as the 21st century began Brazilian academia suffered further ups and downs closely related to political and funding crises, which have worsened since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019. On the other hand, the huge impact of the 20th-century changes in Brazilian academia should not detract from the production of science and technology in previous centuries.

Article

Thiago Lima Nicodemo, Mateus Henrique de Faria Pereira, and Pedro Afonso Cristovão dos Santos

The founding of the first universities in the first decades of the 20th century in Brazil emerged from a context of public education reforms and expansion that modified the relationship between intellectuals and the public sphere in Brazil. The representation of national pasts was the object of prolific public debate in the social sciences and literature and fine arts through social and historical essays, pushed mostly from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, such as Gilberto Freyre’s, The Master and the Slaves (Casa Grande e Senzala, 1936) and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s Roots of Brazil (Raízes do Brasil, 1936). Just after the 1950s, universities expanded nationally, and new resources were available for academic and scientific production, such as libraries, archives, scientific journals, and funding agencies (namely CNPQ, CAPES and FAPESP). In the field of history, these effects would have a greater impact in the 1960s and 1970s with the consolidation of a National Association of History, the debate over curricula and required content, and the systematization of graduate programs (thanks to the University Reform of 1968, during the military dictatorship). Theses, dissertations, and monographs gradually gained ground as long social essays lost their prestige, seen as not befitting the standards of disciplinary historiography as defined in the graduate programs such as a wider empirical ground and more accurate time frames and scopes. Through their writing in more specialized formats, which moved away from essays and looked into the great Brazilian historical problems, historians played an important role in the resistance against the authoritarian regime (1964–1985) and, above all, contributed to a debate on the role of silenced minorities regarding redemocratization.