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Gregory Duff Morton
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-9800)
Return from the World: Stories of Leaving Economic Growth Behind in Northeastern Brazil

Research and writing of a chapter for a book on why migrant laborers in northeast Brazil choose to leave their higher-paying urban jobs and return to their rural homes.

This project investigates the everyday meanings of economic growth during Brazil’s cycle of boom and bust at the dawn of the 21st century. Through ethnography and archival research, the project focuses on two Northeastern villages. A stream of migrants came back to these villages during the boom years, turning down the rising urban wages and returning to live below the poverty level as subsistence farmers. Why did these migrants move away from growth? Their exodus illuminates a core dilemma for development: people can experience growth as a loss of freedom. The manuscript pays attention to migrants as they debate the importance of growth in their lives. I consider their phone calls home, their bus rides back, the money they remit, and the houses they build. Return from the World thus strives to understand growth through the stories told by those who leave it behind. In so doing, the manuscript builds an argument about the limits and possibilities of contemporary economic freedom.

Project fields:
Anthropology; Economics; Latin American Studies

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2020 – 7/31/2020