Current Institutional Affiliation
Historian, Human Rights Violators & War Crimes Center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Chicago
Political Amnesty in Brazil, 1889-1979

Throughout the twentieth century in Brazil, politicians and political dissidents alike described amnesty as a right, a duty, and a national tradition. Yet, the granting of political amnesty played a paradoxical role in politics, especially in moments of regime change. On one hand, amnesty connoted democratic reform. On the other hand, amnesty served as an intra-elite strategy to avert such reforms. My dissertation examines this contradictory role of amnesty in four distinct regime changes in Brazil, from 1889-1979, asking two interrelated questions. First, why did the architects of political transitions over time in Brazil choose (or accept) amnesty? Second, why did political conciliation take the form of amnesty, and in turn, why did amnesty become a sign of democracy? At stake in these questions is an understanding of the parallel traditions of accommodation and authoritarianism in Brazilian politics. By focusing on actors' motivations, my methodology engages critically with empirical and theoretical work in anthropology, political science, sociology and literary studies. This project relies on research in federal and state archives, as well as on document collections of civil society organizations, interviews, and oral history. During my year of research in Brazil, I will be affiliated with the Getulio Vargas Foundation's Center for Research and Documentation (CPDOC), the Federal University's Philosophy and Social Science Institute (IFSC), and the human rights organization, 'Torture Never Again' Group (GTNM). While the question of amnesty matters tremendously for understanding Brazilian history, its importance does not stop with Brazil. Indeed, since the third wave of democratization, issues of transitional justice and reparations for human rights violations have troubled policy makers, activists, and theorists alike. My research on Brazil takes seriously these global problems and aims to provide a thorough case study for the broader debates.