Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Christopher Dunn

Professor - Spanish & Portuguese

Contact Info

Department Affiliation
Spanish and Portuguese


My research is primarily devoted to modern Brazilian literary and cultural studies with a particular focus on the period of military rule between 1964 and 1985. I have developed a multidisciplinary approach, involving the analysis of literary texts, visual culture, cinema, and especially popular music, a field of heightened symbolic value in Brazilian cultural history.

My first book Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture was the first English-language treatment of Tropicália, widely acknowledged as the most important Brazilian cultural movement of the last half century. I situated the tropicalist movement in relation to an avant-garde tradition going back to Oswald de Andrade’s antropofagia (i.e. cultural cannibalism) of the late 1920s, which proposed a radical critique of the conservative legacy of Portuguese colonialism, while articulating a will to “devour” cultural practices and ideas from Europe and the United States. With manifestations in visual/conceptual art, cinema, theater, literature, and popular music, Tropicália erupted in 1968, a watershed year in culture and politics in several national contexts. It coincided with mass protests and the emergence of an armed opposition movement, which gave rise to a fiercely anti-communist hard line faction within the regime that remained in power until the mid-1970s. The military regime followed a program of conservative modernization, which stimulated capitalist growth, industrialization, and the expansion of mass media, while restricting labor demands and political rights, thereby further exacerbating social inequalities. In artworks, songs, films, and plays, the tropicalists produced elaborate allegories of Brazilian society that focused on the stark contradiction between modernity and underdevelopment in the context of authoritarian rule. Despite its brevity, Tropicália would have a deep and lasting impact on several artistic realms and would serve in subsequent years as a point of reference for the youth counterculture in Brazil.

With support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2013-14), I completed my second book, Contracultura: Alternative Arts and Social Transformation in Authoritarian Brazil, which is a logical extension of Brutality Garden. While my first book focused on a small group of artists in the late 1960s, my second book examines the Brazilian counterculture from a wider angle as both a social as well as cultural movement during the 1970s. While scholarship on Latin America during the Cold War has traditionally focused on revolutionary insurgency and state-sponsored counterinsurgency, Contracultura examines other dimensions of social dissent and artistic experimentation characterized as “alternative,” “marginal,” or “underground” during this period. Drawing on a diverse corpus of source material, including literary texts (poems, experimental prose, short fiction), songs, films, artworks, photographs, cartoons, police records, censorship files, and alternative journalism, my book explores the impact of the counterculture on alternative lifestyles, the artistic avant-garde, and popular culture. The second half of the book explores the relationship between the counterculture and emergent social movements that would challenge conservative attitudes toward gender, sexuality, and race. One chapter focuses on “Black Rio,” an Afro-Brazilian urban counterculture revolving around soul music that was heavily influenced by post-Civil Rights Black Power movements in the US, which was a harbinger of an organized black political mobilization toward the end of the 1970s. Another chapter reveals the connections between the counterculture and an emergent gay movement that sought to challenge the patriarchal values and sexual mores promoted by the regime and its allies. Contracultura received an Honorable Mention, 2017 Brazil Section Award from the Latin American Studies Association and was Co-Winner of the 2017 Roberto Reis Book Award from the Brazilian Studies Association.

In addition to my monographs on cultural and social movements during the period of authoritarian rule, I have co-edited two volumes of scholarly essays related to Brazilian popular music, an artistic field that has for long interested literary scholars and cultural historians. The first volume, Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization, co-edited with Charles Perrone, addressed a diverse range of topics, including Carmen Miranda’s reception in the US, the impact of bossa nova on jazz, Tropicália and psychedelic rock, Brazilian heavy metal, and Afro-Diasporic genres, such as reggae and funk. The second volume, Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship, co-edited with Idelber Avelar, examined music as a resource for claiming social, political, and cultural rights in Brazil. These essays consider Brazilian popular music in relation to national identity, social class, race, political protest, and forms of distribution and consumption. My own contribution to this volume examined the discourse around citizenship in the work of Tom Zé (Antonio José Santana Martins, b. 1936), a participant in the tropicalist movement who has reflected on the meaning of modern citizenship in Brazil throughout his career spanning over half a century.

The remarkable career of Tom Zé is the focus of my current book project, Stray Dog in the Milky Way: Tom Zé and Brazilian Popular Music. While focused on one artist, this project will tell a larger story with a longer narrative arc about modernity, migration, citizenship, and culture in Brazil.

  • B.A., Colorado College, History, 1987
  • M.A., Brown University, Brazilian Studies, 1992
  • Ph.D., Brown University, Brazilian Studies, 1996
Academic Experience
  • Associate Professor, Tulane University, 2002-
  • Visiting Professor, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 2002
  • Assistant Professor, Tulane University, 1996-2001

Research & Teaching Specializations: Brazilian Literary and Cultural Studies, Popular Music, Countercultures, Brazilian Culture, African Diaspora Studies, Popular Music, African Diaspora Studies

Related Experience
  • Chair, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Tulane University, 2003-2009, 2012-2013
  • Program Chair, IX Congress of Brazilian Studies Association, 2008
  • Member, Executive Committee of Brazilian Studies Association, 2002-2006
  • Manuscript evaluation for Duke University Press, University of Pittsburgh Press, Wesleyan University Press, Indiana University Press, Luso-Brazilian Review, PMLA, Hispanic American Historical Review, Latin American Music Review, Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, Current Anthropology, Afro-Asia, Identities, Hispanic Review, Calalloo
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2013-2014
  • Latin Americanist Graduate Organization (LAGO) Outstanding Faculty Member Service Award, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, 2008
  • Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, 2002
  • Fulbright Fellowship, 1994-1995
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
Overseas Experience
  • Brazil
  • Cuba
Selected Publications
  • 2018.“Fazendo cócegas nas tradições: o samba disjuntivo de Tom Zé.” Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros 70 (August 2018): 149-165.
  • 2017. “Participation and Marginality.” Hélio Oiticica: Bólides, edited by Gean Moreno. Miami: Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.
  • 2017. “Seeking the Orixás in Brazilian Popular Music,” Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis, edited by Roberto Conduru et. al. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA.
  • 2014. “Mapping Tropicália.” In The Global Sixties in Sound and Vision: Media, Counterculture, Revolt. Timothy Brown and Andrew Lison, eds. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • 2014. “Desbunde and its Discontents: Counterculture and Authoritarian Modernization in Brazil, 1968-1974.” The Americas.
  • 2013. “Experience the Experimental: Avant-Garde, Cultura Marginal, and Counterculture in Brazil, 1968-1972.” Luso-Brazilian Review.
  • 2012. “Por entre máscaras cool, twists mornos e jazz fervente: Bossa Nova no cenário norte-americano, 1961-1964.” In João Gilberto. Edited by Walter Garcia. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, (251-270).
  • 2011. Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship. Edited with Idelber Avelar. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • 2009. “Tom Zé and the performance of citizenship in Brazil.” Popular Music. 28 (2): 217-237.
  • 2008. “A Roma Negra e o Big Easy: Raça, cultura e discurso em Salvador e Nova Orleans.” Afro-Ásia. 37: 119-151.
  • 2006. “A Retomada Freyreana.” In Gilberto Freyre e los Estudios Latinoamericanos. Edited by Joshua Lund and Malcolm McNee. Pittsburgh: Instituto de Literatura Iberoamericana. 35-51.
  • 2001. Brutality Garden: Tropicalia and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Recently-Taught Latin American-Related Courses: PORT-6910-01: Brazilian Lit: C. Lispector, AFRS-2000-01: Intro to Africana Studies

Number of Dissertations or Theses Supervised in the Past 5 Years: 7

Full CV and Website
Departmental Biography