Latin American Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Benjamin Arthur Cowan

Benjamin Arthur Cowan

Benjamin Arthur Cowan

Assistant Professor

Latin American History; Gender and Sexuality; Cultural and Political Conservatism; Cold War; Religion

Ben Cowan received his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA. His interest in right-wing radicalism, morality, sexuality, and 20th-century imperialism has led him to research focused on Cold War Brazil, with a specialization in the cultural and gender history of the post-1964 era. Ben's book Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil, has been published by the University of North Carolina Press (2016). The monograph has won book awards from the Latin American Studies Association and the Southeastern Conference on Latin American Studies. In 2015, his research on counterinsurgency earned the Sturgis-Leavitt Award for the best article from SECOLAS. He has also published articles in American QuarterlyThe Journal of the History of SexualityThe Hispanic American Historical Review, Radical History Review, and other venues. His work has benefited from much-appreciated support, including grants from the John W. Kluge Center, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the American Philosophical Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Tinker Foundation, the Pauley Family Foundation, and the UCLA Institute for Social Research. Before coming to GMU, Ben taught for two years at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia. At Mason, his courses range from introductory courses on broader hemispheric topics to seminars on right-wing activism, masculinity, sexuality, and modernization in Brazil.

Selected Publications


    • Winner of the Alfred B. Thomas Book Award from the Southeastern Conference of Latin American Studies, 2017. 
    • Winner of the LASA Brazil Section Book Award, 2017. 


  •  “‘Non-religious Activities’: Sex, Anticommunism, and Progressive Christianity in the Late Cold War.” In Gender,Sexuality, and the Cold War: A Global Perspective, edited by Philip E. Muehlenbeck. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Forthcoming, 2016.
  •  “Sexing Empire” (editor), Special Issue. Radical History Review no. 123 (2015).
  •  “Rules of Disengagement: Masculinity, Violence, and the Cold War Remakings of Counterinsurgency in Brazil.” American Quarterly 66, no. 3 (2014).
  • “Um Perigo Cor-de-Rosa: Homossexualidade, Ideologia, e ‘Subversão’ no Regime Militar,” [A Pink Menace: Homosexuality, Ideology, and “Subversion” during the Military Regime]. In Homossexualidade e Ditadura no Brasil, edited by James N. Green and Renan Quinalha. Santa Catarina: EdUFSCar, 2015.
  • “‘Nosso Terreno’: Crise Moral, Política Evangélica e a Formação da ‘Nova Direita’ Brasileira” [“Our Territory”: Moral Crisis, Evangelical Politics, and the Formation of a Brazilian “New Right”]. Varia História 30, no. 52 (2014).
  •  “A Passive Homosexual Element”: Digitized Archives and the Policing of Homosex in Cold War Brazil. Radical History Review no. 120 (2014).
  • “‘Why Hasn’t this Teacher Been Shot?’: Moral-Sexual Panic, the Repressive Right, and Brazil’s National Security State.” Hispanic American Historical Review 92, no. 3 (2012).
  •  “Sex and the Security State: Gender, Sexuality, and ‘Subversion’ at Brazil’s Escola Superior de Guerra, 1964-1985.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 3 (2007).


PhD, UCLA, 2010
AB, Harvard, 2002