Special Issue: Life History and Cultures of Militancy in Latin America’s Cold War

Radical Americas special issue.

Collection details

Life History and Cultures of Militancy in Latin America’s Cold War

Radical Americas special issue.


This special issue brings together seven papers that use the genre of life history to explore cultures of militancy during Latin America’s Cold War. Instead of treating militancy as simply a means to a (political or ideological) end, contributors will approach the experience of militancy – the adventure it promised, the stress and joy it created, the dilemmas it presented – as a dynamic cultural field. The life-history approach allows researchers to describe that field from the inside. Writing about militants from Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Brazil, and Chile, and active between the 1950s and early 2000s, contributors pay special attention to how militants made sense of a tension that characterized their experience across different national and transnational contexts.

On the one hand, Latin American militants were driven by a sense of vanguardism that isolated them from the social world on whose behalf they were claiming to act. This isolation was often heightened by the necessity to operate clandestinely, creating closed spaces in which hierarchies could form along axes of gender, class, ethnicity, and ideology. On the other hand, however, militants were driven by a search for new forms of belonging and solidarity. Some militants were inspired by emancipatory understandings of Christianity, others by the writings of Che Guevara, but in each case militants attempted to remake their personal relations in the image of a world that would express their fraternal values. It was from the interaction of those two imperatives, and from the contradictions between them, that a militant culture emerged in Cold-War Latin America.


Publication date: Articles are being published as and when ready on an on-going basis and will appear below.


Guest Editors

Dr Jacob Blanc, Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University, Canada
Dr Timo Schaefer, School of of History, Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK


Article list

Articles will be listed here upon publication.

Editorial: Life history and cultures of militancy in Latin America’s Cold War

Authors: Timo Schaefer and Jacob Blanc
Published: 12 October 2023


Clandestinity and militant culture in Latin America, 1960s to the early 1980s: epistemological and historical reflections and an agenda for research

Author: Lucía Rayas
Published: 12 October 2023


Student colectivos in the USSR during the Cold War 1960s: shaping Cuba’s ‘New Man’ from abroad

Author: Rafael Pedemonte
Publication date: 10 May 2023


Radicalisation and political crisis: the personal transitions of a Guatemalan social Christian militant, 1942–1981

Author: Rodrigo Véliz Estrada
Publication date: 26 April 2023


‘The whole process of gender’: a feminist culture of militancy in southern Brazil

Author: Jeffrey W. Rubin
Published: 12 October 2023


Martians in the favela: religion and revolution in Rio de Janeiro

Author: Michael Rom
Publication date: 22 March 2023


Thinking through biography

Author: Tanya Harmer
Published: 12 October 2023

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