History ETDs

Publication Date



This dissertation examines universities and the development of middle-class politics in Brazil in the latter half of the twentieth century. It asks: how did the middle class become increasingly important to Brazilian politics and society? By focusing on the university system as both a physical and discursive site of negotiation, the dissertation traces how the military, bureaucrats, business leaders, pedagogues, students, and parents entered into complex debates over education and national development. Drawing from police records, bureaucratic archives, private collections, and oral interviews, it studies how the middle class and the state under military rule strengthened the role of the middle class by connecting university education, development, and white-collar professions. Thus, the analysis moves beyond narratives of repression and resistance to examine the complex nature of state-society relations before and during Brazils military dictatorship, and reveals considerable ideological heterogeneity within the student population. In doing so, it contributes to the political and social history of Brazil, as well as adding to the small but increasingly important scholarship on the middle class in Latin America. The dissertation shows how universities became increasingly central to middle class politics. Early chapters trace the rise of universities' importance to different visions of national development. When the military dictatorship rose to power in 1964, universities functioned both as physical sites to resist the dictatorship as well as discursive fields where society and the state debated Brazil's future. In these discursive struggles, groups with widely varying ideologies coalesced around the idea of expanding the middle class as the primary vehicle for national development. As increasing economic turbulence and gradual political opening took place after 1975, students and university-trained professionals with particular material and political expectations became a major force in the push for a return to democratization. By the dictatorship's end in 1985, the emphasis on university education had helped the middle class emerge as a major voice in Brazilian society and politics.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Bieber, Judy

Second Committee Member

Hutchison, Elizabeth Q.

Third Committee Member

Hall, Linda B.

Fourth Committee Member

Langland, Victoria

Fifth Committee Member

Milleret, Margo



Project Sponsors

Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant, Latin American and Iberian Institute Ph.D. Fellowship, Latin American and Iberian Institute Field Research Grant, History Graduate Student Association Grant, Graduate and Professional Students Association Student Research Allocations Committee Award

Document Type