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Article

Antoine Acker

While historically “Amazon” could refer to a river, a basin, and later a forest, it has been shaped into a coherent regional space by the development politics of governments, companies, and nongovernmental organizations throughout the 20th century, concealing a more complex cultural and ecological reality. Development discourses ignored the human technologies existing prior to the 16th century and drew on the imaginary of a “pristine” jungle, which actually resulted from the human depopulation that occurred in the Amazon during colonization. Colonialism (17th–19th centuries), nonetheless, connected the region to the global economy, indirectly leading to the “rubber boom” (1880–1920), when the Amazon became indispensable to the second industrial revolution. After state and business actors led different operations meant to “modernize” the region in the first half of the 20th century, “developing” the Amazon became a major target of the Brazilian government in the decades following World War II. The politics of the military regime that ruled from 1964 to 1984 in particular drove the expansion of roadways, cattle-ranching, mining, and dams. While statistically creating economic growth, this trend had disastrous consequences for nature, Indigenous livelihoods, and labor relations, which mobilized scientists, activists, and local communities against it. Yet, although by the 1990s the developmentalist model was highly contested, social and environmental movements did not manage to gather society behind a new consensus for the Amazon. Attempts to put development at the service of reducing inequalities and to reinforce environmental legislation achieved certain (mitigated) success in the early 21st century, but they did not prevent deforestation and land conflicts from trending upwards after 2015, threatening the Amazon’s very existence.

Article

As the number of favelas and poor residents of Rio de Janeiro grew quickly by the mid-20th century, they became the object of policymaking, social science research, real estate speculation, and grassroots mobilization. After a decade in which local authorities recognized the de facto presence of favelas but without legally ascertaining the right of permanence, the 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the era of mass eradication. Seemingly contradictory—but complementary—policies also included the development of massive low-income housing complexes and innovative community development and favela urbanization experiences empowered by community organizations with the assistance of experts committed to improving the lives of poor Cariocas (residents of Rio). Favelas in Rio were at the crossroads of a particular interplay of forces: the urgent need to modernize Rio’s obsolete and inadequate urban infrastructure; the new administrative status of the city after the inauguration of Brasilia; and the redefinition of the balance of power between local, municipal, and federal forces in a time of radical politics and authoritarian and technocratic military regimes, Cold War diplomacy, and the transnational flows of expertise and capital.

Article

Four elements of Brazil’s identity—its large size, its self-perception as part of the Western world, its vulnerability to European intervention and to the changing world economy, and its success in defending itself through diplomacy—have all contributed to shaping its aspirations in the international domain. Participation in the councils of the great powers became a means by which Brazilian diplomats could pursue a world order that was more favorable to its interests. But even though domestic aspirations and foreign perceptions have held out the prospect for Brazil becoming a major power, it has lacked the capabilities—particularly on the military and economic dimensions—to pursue a traditional path to greatness. Militarily, Brazil has been only episodically consequential, and less so as we approach the present. Given South America’s remoteness from the geopolitical centers of global conflict, Brazil has faced little pressure to improve its modest security capabilities beyond what was necessary to fend off its smaller neighbors. Brazil’s efforts to advance through partnerships with other states have been hobbled by a historical reluctance to pool its sovereignty. In addition, turbulent domestic politics or major economic crises have periodically undermined Brazil’s credibility and capabilities, interrupting its rise. How has Brazil sought to overcome the gap between its ambitions and its capabilities? Brazil was a prominent exponent of the practice of ‘soft power’. It positioned itself internationally as a proponent of equality among nations, international law, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. To this, Brazil has added a formidable cultural output and most recently, democracy, prosperity and social inclusion. This is an attractive package, particularly for other developing countries who want to find a similar status. This chapter follows Brazil’s attempts in the 20th century and up through President Dilma Rousseff to parlay this approach into a say in shaping the rules governing the international order.

Article

Ian Kisil Marino and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

Historians devoted to telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic should question the archival conditions involved. In this article, we approach the archival landscape in Latin America in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, which particularly unfolded in the digital environment. First, we suggest a review of archival digitization in Latin America, providing context for the conditions observed during the pandemic. Second, we discuss the emergence of digital memory initiatives that focused on COVID-19, showing typological relations that may arise from transnational analyses. Accordingly, we dive into some Brazilian archival initiatives with major ethnographic rigor since, in addition to closely representing the reality of the region, they provide us with a more accurate immersion into the agents, platforms, and challenges of this pandemic digital undertaking. Lastly, we point out the complex situation of public archives amidst the mass of documents resulting from the pandemic. This way, we pose questions about the increasingly important interface between history, archives, and a policy for transparency of data.

Article

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA in English and CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese) was more than an economic development institution. Established in 1948, at the height of post-World War II internationalism, CEPAL was one of the first three regional commissions alongside those of Europe and Asia charged with addressing problems of postwar economic reconstruction. But, in the hands of a group of mostly Argentinean, Brazilian, and Chilean economists, CEPAL swiftly became the institutional fulcrum of a regional intellectual project that put Latin America at the center of discussions about international development and global capitalism. That Latin America’s place in the periphery of the global economy as a producer of primary products and raw materials in exchange for manufactured goods from the world’s industrial centers, combined with the long-term decline in the international terms of that trade, constituted an obstacle for economic development, was the foundational tenet of that project. Through regional economic surveys and in-depth country studies, international forums and training courses, international cooperation initiatives, and national structural reforms, cepalinos located themselves at the nexus of a transnational network of diplomats and policymakers, economists and sociologists, and made the notion of center–periphery and the intellectual repertoire it inspired the central economic paradigm of the region in the postwar era. Eclipsed in the 1970s by critiques from the New Left and dependency theorists, on the one hand, and by the authoritarian right and neoliberal proponents, on the other hand, the cepalino project remains Latin America’s most important contribution to debates about capitalism and globalization, while the institution, after it reinvented itself at the turn of the century, still constitutes a point of reference and a privileged repository of information about the region.

Article

Between 1934 and 1943, French cultural diplomacy in Brazil was the task of intellectuals, the so called “intellectual ambassadors.” Notwithstanding the differences in their individual profiles, political convictions, academic conceptions, and religious beliefs, they all carried out their common mission of creating a pro-French profile in the Brazilian academic realm. The article is an analysis of the strategies, means, actors, and results of French cultural diplomacy in Brazil between 1934 and 1943, whose success can be explained, fundamentally, by the symbiosis between the university field and the diplomatic field.

Article

Japanese immigration to Brazil started in 1908 as a replacement for European immigrants to work for the state of São Paulo’s expanding coffee industry. It peaked in the late 1920s and early 1930s, in the face of growing anti-Japanese sentiment in Brazil. The Japanese migrated to Brazil in mandatory family units and formed their own agricultural settlements once they competed their colono labor contracts and became independent farmers. Under Getúlio Vargas’s nationalistic policies, a 1934 immigration law severely limited the entry of the Japanese. Strict legal restrictions were also imposed on them during Vargas’s Estado Novo (1937–1945). Japanese immigration was eventually terminated in 1942. Then the number of Japanese immigrants reached 188,986. At the end of the war, the Japanese were sharply divided among themselves over the defeat of Japan, and Sindō Renmei’s attacks on other Japanese factions terrified the nation of Brazil. Having given up their hope of returning to their homeland, the Japanese and their descendants began to migrate on a large scale to the cities, especially São Paulo City. Japanese immigration resumed in 1953 and peaked in 1959–1960. A total of 53,657 postwar immigrants, including many single adult men, arrived in Brazil before 1993. By 1980, the majority of Japanese Brazilians had joined the urban middle class, and many were already mixed racially. In the mid-1980s, Japanese Brazilians’ “return” labor migrations to Japan began on a large scale, due to Brazil’s troubled national economy. More than 310,000 Brazilian citizens were residing in Japan in June 2008, when the centenary of Japanese immigration was widely celebrated in Brazil. But the story does not end there: the global recession soon forced unemployed Brazilians and their Japanese-born children to return to Brazil.