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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

GEOGRAPHY: BRAZIL


CHRISTIAN BRANNSTROM, Associate Professor of Geography, Texas A&M University

ALTHOUGH THE AMAZONIAN ENVIRONMENT-DEVELOPMENT THEME, noted in HLAS 61 and HLAS 63, continued to be well represented in the 2005–2008 census period, new areas in geographical scholarship have appeared. The work of Valladares (item #bi2008001909#) displays a new approach to the study of Brazil's favelas or shantytowns. Valladares, who has numerous publications on favelas dating from the mid-1960s, is concerned with how favelas were "invented" by elite observers, urban planners, social scientists, and others. She draws special attention to the work of French priest Louis-Joseph Lebret, and his alliance with Bishop Helder Câmara in the 1950s, and the more recent construction of "virtual" favelas. Another important contribution to urban geography is Leite's (item #bi2008001746#) work on the gentrification of the Old Recife neighborhood. Adapted from the author's PhD dissertation completed at the Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP), Leite details the politics and social aspects of historic preservation in Recife. He is especially interested in how culture is commodified and "counter-uses" of urban space by the area's poor people. Sánchez (item #bi2008001910#) touches on the themes that Leite covers by analyzing Curitiba and Barcelona in comparative context. Based on her 2001 PhD dissertation competed in geography at the Universidade de São Paulo, her discussion of Curitiba's takes readers to the inner workings of urban planning and city-marketing.

The historical-environmental theme was strongly represented. Espindola's treatment of regional historical geography of a relatively unknown area (item #bi2008001722#) is the product of the author's PhD dissertation in economic history at the Universidade de São Paulo. Drawing significant inspiration from geographic literatures, Espindola focuses on the idea of the Rio Doce, in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, as an invented "sertão" or hinterland serving as a geographical "Other." He reconstructs government attempts during the 1800s to establish fluvial transport on the Doce; this transport imperative fomented the state's many violent confrontations with Botocudo peoples, and set the stage for 20th century attempts to build railroads into the Rio Doce. Ricardo Ribeiro's two-volume work on the Cerrado of Minas Gerais, based on his doctoral dissertation completed at the Universidade Federal Rural de Rio de Janeiro's interdisciplinary development, agriculture, and society graduate program, are beautifully illustrated and passionately written. Volume one (item #bi2009000859#), which ends in the mid 1800s, is based on archival and published sources. The strengths are his treatment of indigenous peoples and discussion of the Cerrado as rebellious space in which various groups opposed to Brazilian and Portuguese authorities sought refuge. Ribeiro's second volume (item #bi2008001733#) is based on ethnographic work in various communities in the Cerrado of Minas, in which he argues that traditional resource users have been threatened by private property owners interested in commercial crops or livestock, and by environmental laws that criminalize traditional uses of flora and fauna.

Amazonian topics attracted significant attention on three fronts. First, numerous journal articles represent continued work on smallholder land uses, road construction, land violence, and unofficial road building (items #bi2009000571#, #bi2009000569#, and #bi2009000570#). Geographic implications of land uses and government policies are another major theme (items #bi2009000579# and #bi2009000573#), complemented by studies of frontier agricultural dynamics (items #bi2009000581#, #bi2009000585#, #bi2009001337#, #bi2009000582#, #bi2009000589#, and #bi2009002190#).

Second, Drummond and Pereira's book on Amapá state represents the return of a familiar topic to Amazonian studies, but, in this case, with a different approach. Their focus on a mining firm that worked on manganese deposits since the mid 1950s stresses how government benefited from royalties. They argue that Amapa's strong performance in socioeconomic indicators is fruit of wise application of royalties, and their research pays careful attention to both ICOMI, the Brazilian firm that partnered with US mining, and state-generated data. Third, Becker's new work on Amazonian geopolitics (item #bi2008001904#) aims to establish a new way of thinking about the topic, by arguing that the Legal Amazon represents a new role in Brazil, compared to the 1970s and 1980s; she also argues that areas that were used by low-intensity systems are now being used more intensively. Her book emphasizes that the region's new actors, such as traditional peoples and state governments, exert considerably more power than a decade ago.

The 20th century history of Brazilian geography received a major contribution from Heliana Angotti Salgueiro's edited collection on French geographer Pierre Monbeig (item #bi2009000857#) (also see HLAS 51:3279 for Monbeig). In 2001, Salgueiro organized a conference on Monbeig's work and contribution to Brazilian geography; her edited collection includes various papers that situate Monbeig in terms of his scholarly production and his broader context. The book also reproduces some of Monbeig's previously unpublished photographs held in France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The collection also includes an essay on Monbeig's archive, which was donated to the Universidade de São Paulo in 1990.


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