Leila Lehnen

Architectural and Literary Representations of the Brazilian Military Dictatorship

Dr. Leila Lehnen, UNM
October 8, 2017 

In April of 1964 Brazil’s military staged a coup installing an authoritarian government that used violent repression to quell any expression of political, social and cultural opposition to the regime. The dictatorship ended in 1985 and Brazil transitioned into a democratic government. Still, it has taken the country two decades to begin to come to terms with the human rights abuses committed during military rule. Only in 2011 did the Brazilian State approve the creation of a National Truth Commission tasked with investigating human rights violations during 1964-1988. In 2014, the Comissão Nacional da Verdade delivered its final report to then President Dilma Rousseff, who was herself a victim of such crimes. Brazil remains ambivalent toward the legacy of dictatorship, however.  It did not hold those who committed human rights violations accountable and this ambivalence can be observed in some of the monuments that memorialize this period and its violence. It is also revealed in several literary texts that broach the dictatorship and its heritage. But how do cultural artifacts represent this ambivalence and to what purpose? How do these artifacts help maintain alive the memory of traumatic events? Dr. Lehnen will look at monuments and literary texts that constitute what she calls “schizophrenic memory sites,” palimpsestic textual and architectural constructs that offer multiple, often contrasting versions of the past and that are, therefore, emblematic of Brazil’s memory work about the military dictatorship.

Dr. Leila Lehnen is Associate Professor of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She specializes in contemporary Brazilian and Southern Cone literature. Her thematic areas of research include the representation of citizenship, human rights, social justice in literary and cultural production. Her book Citizenship and Crisis in Contemporary Brazilian Literature examines the representation and critique of differentiated citizenship in contemporary Brazilian literature. She has published articles on citizenship, social justice and globalization in Brazilian and Spanish American literature.

Supported by Albuquerque City Council, Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group
and Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union