In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region

Duke University Press
Free sample

Chronicling the dramatic history of the Brazilian Amazon during the Second World War, Seth Garfield provides fresh perspectives on contemporary environmental debates. His multifaceted analysis explains how the Amazon became the object of geopolitical rivalries, state planning, media coverage, popular fascination, and social conflict. In need of rubber, a vital war material, the United States spent millions of dollars to revive the Amazon's rubber trade. In the name of development and national security, Brazilian officials implemented public programs to engineer the hinterland's transformation. Migrants from Brazil's drought-stricken Northeast flocked to the Amazon in search of work. In defense of traditional ways of life, longtime Amazon residents sought to temper outside intervention. Garfield's environmental history offers an integrated analysis of the struggles among distinct social groups over resources and power in the Amazon, as well as the repercussions of those wartime conflicts in the decades to come.
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About the author

Seth Garfield is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil: State Policy, Frontier Expansion, and the Xavante Indians, 1937–1988, also published by Duke University Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Feb 3, 2014
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Pages
360
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ISBN
9780822377177
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / South America
Science / Environmental Science
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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By the time the United States officially entered World War II, more than half of American anthropologists were using their professional knowledge and skills to advance the war effort. The range of their war-related work was extraordinary. They helped gather military intelligence, pinpointed possible social weaknesses in enemy nations, and contributed to the army’s regional Pocket Guide booklets. They worked for dozens of government agencies, including the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Office of War Information. At a moment when social scientists are once again being asked to assist in military and intelligence work, David H. Price examines anthropologists’ little-known contributions to the Second World War.

Anthropological Intelligence is based on interviews with anthropologists as well as extensive archival research involving many Freedom of Information Act requests. Price looks at the role played by the two primary U.S. anthropological organizations, the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology (which was formed in 1941), in facilitating the application of anthropological methods to the problems of war. He chronicles specific projects undertaken on behalf of government agencies, including an analysis of the social effects of postwar migration, the design and implementation of OSS counterinsurgency campaigns, and the study of Japanese social structures to help tailor American propaganda efforts. Price discusses anthropologists’ work in internment camps, their collection of intelligence in Central and South America for the FBI’s Special Intelligence Service, and their help forming foreign language programs to assist soldiers and intelligence agents. Evaluating the ethical implications of anthropological contributions to World War II, Price suggests that by the time the Cold War began, the profession had set a dangerous precedent regarding what it would be willing to do on behalf of the U.S. government.

Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil examines the dynamic interplay between the Brazilian government and the Xavante Indians of central Brazil in the context of twentieth-century western frontier expansion and the state’s indigenous policy. Offering a window onto Brazilian developmental policy in Amazonia and the subsequent process of indigenous political mobilization, Seth Garfield bridges historical and anthropological approaches to reconsider state formation and ethnic identity in twentieth-century Brazil.
Garfield explains how state officials, eager to promote capital accumulation, social harmony, and national security on the western front, sought to delimit indigenous reserves and assimilate native peoples. Yet he also shows that state efforts to celebrate Indians as primordial Brazilians and nationalist icons simultaneously served to underscore and redefine ethnic difference. Garfield explores how various other social actors—elites, missionaries, military officials, intellectuals, international critics, and the Indians themselves—strove to remold this multifaceted project. Paying particular attention to the Xavante’s methods of engaging state power after experience with exile, territorial loss, and violence in the “white” world, Garfield describes how they emerged under military rule not as the patriotic Brazilians heralded by state propagandists but as a highly politicized ethnic group clamoring for its constitutional land rights and social entitlements.
Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil will interest not only historians and anthropologists but also those studying nationbuilding, Brazil, Latin America, comparative frontiers, race, and ethnicity.
The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford's early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia's eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

More than a parable of one man's arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford's great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained.
Fordlandia is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

"This is a pathbreaking book, well grounded in the appropriate documentary record. Downey makes especially good use of the reports of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company and of other corporations, which are so tedious to read, to offer an exciting and fresh perspective on an old problem of vital importance, the relationship between businessmen and planters in the Old South" -- American Historical Review
"Downey's book has many merits. First of all, it successfully presents a comprehensive and harmonious picture of the development of the region. Second, it helps to better define the contours of the long misunderstood southern political economy and its transformations during the latter part of the antebellum era. It is indeed a well-written and well-thought piece of historiography showing in microcosm how a new synthesis of antebellum southern history should be conceived." -- Enterprise and SocietyIn Planting a Capitalist South, Tom Downey effectively challenges the idea that commercial and industrial interests did little to alter the planter-dominated political economy of the Old South. By analyzing the interplay of planters, merchants, and manufacturers, Downey characterizes the South as a sphere of contending types of capitalists: agrarians with land and slaves versus commercial and industrial owners of banks, railroads, stores, and factories. His book focuses on the central Savannah River Valley of western South Carolina, an influential political and economic region and the home of some of the South's leading states' rights and proslavery ideologues; which also spawned a number of inland commercial towns, one of the nation's first railroads, and a robust wage-labor community. As such, western South Carolina provides a unique opportunity for looking at contrasting economic forces but solely within the boundaries of the South -- slavery vs. free labor, industrial vs. agricultural, urban vs. rural. A revisionary study, Planting a Capitalist South offers clear evidence of a burgeoning transition to capitalist society in the Old South. "Downey's book is a welcome new addition to the growing corpus of studies seeking to understand the lives of white merchants and manufacturers. Well written and researched, Downey's excellent work will add greater nuance to our picture of the social and economic life of the Old South, particularly our picture of the emerging southern middle class." -- Georgia Historical Quarterly"Planting a Capitalist South makes several important contributions. The idea that commerce and industry challenged tenets of republican ideology may be a familiar one, but Downey pursues it in directions seldom explored by previous historians of the Old South, examining conflicts over issue like railroad routes, water rights, and the power of town governments. Moreover, he links those subjects to historians' debates about the capitalist character of the region, and he stakes out an innovative position with his argument that the late antebellum South was in the midst of a transition to capitalism." -- Business History Review
The fortunes of the late nineteenth century’s imperial and industrial powers depended on a single raw material—rubber—with only one source: the Amazon basin. And so began the scramble for the Amazon—a decades-long conflict that found Britain, France, Belgium, and the United States fighting with and against the new nations of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil for the forest’s riches. In the midst of this struggle, Euclides da Cunha, engineer, journalist, geographer, political theorist, and one of Brazil’s most celebrated writers, led a survey expedition to the farthest reaches of the river, among the world’s most valuable, dangerous, and little-known landscapes. The Scramble for the Amazon tells the story of da Cunha’s terrifying journey, the unfinished novel born from it, and the global strife that formed the backdrop for both. Haunted by his broken marriage, da Cunha trekked through a beautiful region thrown into chaos by guerrilla warfare, starving migrants, and native slavery. All the while, he worked on his masterpiece, a nationalist synthesis of geography, philosophy, biology, and journalism he named the Lost Paradise. Da Cunha intended his epic to unveil the Amazon’s explorers, spies, natives, and brutal geopolitics, but, as Susanna B. Hecht recounts, he never completed it—his wife’s lover shot him dead upon his return. At once the biography of an extraordinary writer, a masterly chronicle of the social, political, and environmental history of the Amazon, and a superb translation of the remaining pieces of da Cunha’s project, The Scramble for the Amazon is a work of thrilling intellectual ambition.
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