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Latin American History Scholar Named Woodrow Wilson Fellow

Latin American History Scholar Named Woodrow Wilson Fellow

UC Riverside professor James Brennan continues his study of the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina.

(January 4, 2012)

James P. BrennanEnlarge

James P. Brennan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – UC Riverside history professor James P. Brennan has been named a research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., for the current academic year.

Brennan, a specialist in modern Latin American history, will conduct independent research at the center’s Latin American Program in The Mexico Institute during the nine-month, residential fellowship. His project looks at political violence, state terrorism and human rights abuses in Argentina during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

The project is part of a book-length study of Argentina’s so-called “dirty war,” tentatively titled, “Missing Bones: the ‘Dirty War’ in Córdoba.” It builds on 30 years of research on Argentina, which began with Brennan’s Ph.D. dissertation and first book. That early work examined social and labor mobilizations in Córdoba in the years just prior to the military dictatorship.

In this study, Brennan is wroking to develop a comprehensive explanation for the violence, focusing on the industrial city of Córdoba, one of the centers of the harshest repression. He is examining not only the victims of the violence but also the perpetrators, drawing on testimony from Argentina’s recent human rights trials, police records, and oral history.

In the period after the war in Argentina, some of the most notorious examples of political violence, terrorism, and human rights abuses occurred. Guerrilla organizations committed acts of violence against union leaders, politicians, businessmen, and military officers, Brennan said. Military governments practiced an even more ruthless state terrorism leading to the death, disappearance, torture, and unlawful arrest of tens of thousands of people. Human rights’ organizations emerged in response to this state-sponsored terrorism that adopted novel tactics and organizational forms to confront the arbitrary military rule. The fall of Argentina’s military government in 1983 led to fierce debates about accountability and punishment for the group and individual perpetrators.

Brennan said that Argentina’s truth commission, the National Commission on the Disappeared, and the trials of those accused of human rights violations and crimes against humanity, were probably the most important to take place since the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals following World War II.

“I am looking forward to being a part of the Wilson Center community,” Brennan said, “to share research projects and to learn from scholars who work on subjects, places and periods far removed from my own.”

Brennan joined the UCR history department in 1996, having taught previously at Harvard and Georgetown universities. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from American University, and a master’s and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the author of two books and the editor of two others as well as having published numerous journal articles and book chapters. Last year he was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to conduct research in Argentina.

The Wilson Center is the official memorial to the 28th U.S. president. Scholars and experts research topics of national and international relevance with the intention of building a bridge between the worlds of academia and public policy, to inform and develop solutions to the nation’s problems and challenges.

The Woodrow Wilson Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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