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Seth W. Garfield
University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX 78712-0100)
Soldiers and Citizens in the Rainforest: Brazilian Rubber Tappers during World War II and Beyond

The book examines the experiences of the rubber "soldiers," Brazilian migrant workers transported to the Amazon in a U.S.-funded wartime campaign, as a window into state planning in the Amazon, U.S.-Brazilian relations, interregional migration, rural populism and popular mobilization. Through consideration of public health projects, protectionist labor legislation, and state propaganda, the study explores efforts by Brazilian and American state officials to remake the rural poor and to "modernize" the Amazon. In a "top-down" analysis, the study adopts a transnational approach to reveal competing and overlapping agendas between Brazilian and American officials regarding state intervention in economic planning, and their attitudes--informed by racial, class, gender, "scientific," and populist ideologies towards the rural poor. In a "bottom-up" approach, the book analyses the strong historic links tying northeastern Brazil to the Amazon, the socioeconomic and environmental conditions in the sending regions, brutalizing and empowering aspects of wartime rubber tapping, and the postwar struggle for historic recognition and the social rights of citizenship. The book will not only inform American and Brazilian readers of a relatively unknown wartime episode, but document the historic origins of grass roots mobilization in the Amazon in the 1980s under the leadership of Chico Mendes. As such, I offer important revisions to the historiography of the Vargas era, Amazonia, and U.S.-Brazilian relations. In the process we come to reconsider our understanding of "traditional" peoples and, by extension, our historic ties to them.

Project fields:
Latin American History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2004 – 8/31/2005