Toronto Brazilian History Workshop IV: Brazil from Empire to Republic and Dictatorship to Democracy

April 6, 2018 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Institute
170 St George St
Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Toronto Brazilian History Workshop:

Brazil from Empire to Republic and Dictatorship to Democracy

Sponsors: UT-Latin American Studies; UT-JHI; York CERLAC and Glendon College

April 6, 2018, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Jackman Humanities Institute, room 318, 170 St. George Street @ Bloor St. West




1:00 p.m. Peter Beattie, Michigan State University: The Prodigal's Work Ethic: Patriarchy, Consumption, Happiness, Vice and Honor in Imperial Brazil

This presentation explores an “interdiction” (interdição) suit that a wealthy Recife merchant originally filed with a Judge of Orphans in 1869 against his “prodigal” adult son to control his spending and abrogate his right to contract loans.  The analysis illustrates the power a well-connected patriarch could exert to curtail his own son’s liberty in a slave society undergoing a gradual transition to free labor.  The receipts, correspondence, and testimony collected in the suit provide unique insights into the norms and values that elite merchant families disputed in relation to patriarchy, consumption, happiness, vice, honor, and manhood in one of the most venerable slave communities in the Americas.  I argue that these terms are interrelated in court and other records and that they share many referential and conceptual moorings in slave status in late imperial Brazil.  This family history also reveals common tensions that riveted merchant families and their evolving relationships over the course of their lives.

Dr. Beattie’s publications include Punishment in Paradise: Race, Slavery, Human Rights, and a Nineteenth-Century Brazilian Penal Colony (Duke, 2015) and The Tribute of Blood: Army, Honor, Race and Nation in Brazil, 1864-1945 (Duke, 2001), more about his research can be found here:

1:40 p.m. Jeffrey Lesser, Emory University: Bad Health in a Good Retreat: Walking among the Living and the Dead in São Paulo, 1880 to the present

Bom Retiro was (and is) a small neighborhood in the huge megalopolis of São Paulo, Brazil. Filled with small factories and warehouses, the working-class neighborhood has been populated since the end of the 19th century by immigrants, migrants from the impoverished Brazilian northeast, and Afro-Brazilian descendants of slaves. While the cultural backgrounds of the immigrants have shifted (from Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese Catholics in the early 20th century to East European Jews in the mid 20th century to Chinese, Korean and Bolivian immigrants today), the neighborhood has always been viewed internally and externally as one where health (in the broadest sense of the word) is precarious. “Bad Health in a Good Retreat” analyzes the public’s health by focusing on one square block of lower Bom Retiro from about 1900 to the present. My data, from a number of different types of sources, will allow me to analyze the stories residents tell about how to avoid water-borne diseases and about state-imposed campaigns of social control against crime to dengue. The project takes advantage of new digital methodologies that allow me to map the public’s health and how that same public has thought about health over time.

Dr. Lesser's publications include Immigration, Ethnicity and National Identity in Brazil (Cambridge, 2013; Editora UNESP); A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese-Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy (Duke, 2007; Editora Paz e Terra, 2008); Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Duke, 1999; Editora UNESP, 2001) and Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question (University of California Press, 1994). His c.v., and more on his research projects can be found here:

2:10 p.m. Jerry Dávila, University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign: In Plain Sight: Racial Discrimination in Brazil, 1951-1989
In the last 30 years, Brazil has been reshaped by movements against racial discrimination and policies to promote integration.  But what of the decades before this success - the era dominated by mythologies about benign racial and ethnic relations in Brazil?  By mapping newspaper reports and court cases, this presentation explores patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as popular reactions to discrimination.  This history shows challenges to discrimination that extended well beyond the work of activists and intellectuals, existed for decades, and took place throughout Brazil.

Dr. Dávila’s publications include Hotel Trópico: Brazil and the Challenge of African Decolonization (Duke, 2010), Diploma of Whiteness: Race and Social Policy in Brazil, 1917-1945 (Duke, 2003), and Dictatorship in South America (Wiley, 2013) His c.v., and more on his research projects, can be found here:

3:00 p.m. Gillian McGillivray, Glendon College, York University: The ‘Sweeter Side’ of Getúlio Vargas: Populist Politics in the Brazilian Countryside

Historical analyses of mid-twentieth-century populism in Brazil have emphasized state projects to increase industrial production and to incorporate urban workers. In contrast, historians of Circum-Caribbean nations have underscored how populist projects reinforced agricultural production and extended rights to farmers alongside workers. This presentation looks at Brazil’s populist Vargas regime from the perspective of the Brazilian countryside, pointing to the fact that sugarcane production included both industrial and agricultural branches, and both were affected by Brazil’s nationalist legislation in the 1930 and 1940s. The regime introduced “sugar defense” legislation in 1931, and created a new autarchy called the Sugar and Alcohol Institute in 1933. Farmers were included alongside workers in Vargas’s populist discourse, and the Brazilians who planted and grew cane to sell to sugar mills projected themselves as “laborers” to tap into state protection whether they were landowning farmers, sharecroppers, field workers, or squatters.

Dr. McGillivray ( wrote Blazing Cane: Sugar Communities, Class and State-Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959 (Duke University Press, 2009) and recently co-authored, with Thomas Rogers (see below) an edited volume chapter about the workers movement in 1960s Brazil “Classe em formação, revolução na imaginação: Trabalhadores canavieiros no Nordeste brasileiro em anos de tumulto, 1955-1964.”)

3:30 p.m. Thomas Rogers, Emory University: “The people, united, will not be polluted”: Popular and State Responses to Biofuel Pollution in Brazil

In the mid-1970s, Brazilian ethanol producers marketed their fuel as a homegrown alternative to imported oil. By the mid-2000s, they used the term "biofuel," casting it as a green substitute for fossil fuels. In between, ethanol production from sugarcane polluted streams and rivers, prompting groups of citizens to protest and state officials to increase regulation. Debates over these environmental impacts unfolded at the same time that Brazil emerged from a generation-long dictatorship. This paper will examine the overlapping of pro-democracy agitation with an emerging environmental movement.

Dr. Rogers wrote The Deepest Wounds: A Labor and Environmental History of Sugar in Northeast Brazil (University of North Carolina, 2010) and he recently co-authored, with Gillian McGillivray (see above) “Populism in the Circum-Caribbean, 1920-1940,” in Transformations of Populism in New York and the Americas: History and Recent Tendencies, New York: Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2015.