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This study of the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and its associated corporations, including the commercial International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), illuminates an understudied chapter in the history of the public-private aid regime that grew in the mid-twentieth century to become the major industry it is today. As development aid became an American strategic priority in the decades after World War II, Nelson Rockefeller embarked on his own experiment for improving agricultural production and standards of living in poor areas of the world. His laboratory would be Latin America, the region he knew well from his wartime work at the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA). Rockefeller's vision of "creative capitalism" meshed development work into a complex system of nonprofit and for-profit corporations engaged in trial-and-error projects to figure out how to develop perceived underdeveloped societies. With the announcement of President Truman's Point IV policy to deploy American development aid globally, Rockefeller advised the US government to make creative and robust use of American nonprofit and commercial expertise to implement this new strategic objective. This project illustrates just how overlapping and porous the boundaries of nonprofit and commercial development work were and the extent to which they intertwined with the state and other entities. It also shows the difficulties of agricultural and economic development abroad when conducted by small nonprofit corporations and commercial capital—even with the backing of Rockefeller wealth. These limitations meant that AIA increasingly turned to support from the burgeoning US and international public-private aid industry.
This report provides an overview of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center on the role of the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) in the aftermath of the 1950 earthquake in Cusco, Peru. More specifically, the United Nations contracted AIA director Robert "Pete" Hudgens to lead a mission to evaluate Cusco and make recommendations about its reconstruction and long-term development. The report was extensive and included detailed recommendations about the broader rural area, in addition to the city of Cusco. I hoped to learn more about that collaboration and how it fit into the AIA's mission. Archival materials from Nelson A. Rockefeller's personal papers and the Rockefeller Family Public Relations Department papers revealed a complex web of public-private negotiations over who would fund and administer Cusco's development plan. And yet, many of the plans never came to fruition, raising questions about the extent to which these collaborations benefited most Peruvians.
This report traces the origin and expansion of the Association of Credit and Rural Assistance (ACAR) in Minas Gerais, Brazil, from the late 1940s to 1960. Created as a joint project between the American International Association (AIA) and the Minas Gerais state government, I highlight how ACAR became a site where international and Brazilian planners adopted rural extension as a method to pursue agricultural transformations. Rural extension provided planners and their cohort of experts a vehicle to convey technology and know-how to farmers in Minas Gerais. While planners and technocrats often critiqued the results of their programmatic efforts, they consistently valorized rural extension over the course of a decade.In the early 1950s, ACAR's infrastructure rapidly expanded in Minas Gerais. Yet, short-term commitments between the AIA and the Minas Gerais state government caused friction over strategies to promote economic development. Renewed political and economic commitment by both parties in the mid-1950s provided longer-term stability. Further, in 1956, Brazil's federal government launched the ACAR model semi-nationally, endorsing the institution's approach to promote agrarian change. This political decision coincided with the standardization of rural extension and the support for access to credit contracts as common practice across the national network. By the late 1950s, ACAR's initial aims of improving the lives of farming families and improving home economics markedly shifted towards increasing agricultural productivity. In doing so, rural extension offered state planners a malleable method to promote science and technology to intensify farm production, while avoiding calls for large-scale land reform.
Global Cattle Networks: A Study of Tropical Cattle Raising and Its Emergence within Postwar Development StrategiesAugust 15, 2019
The following is a report of multiple weeklong research trips that I conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center over the past year. In particular, it covers research related to my dissertation project on the expansion of the cattle industry during the post-World War II period. Access to the Nelson Rockefeller papers, International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) records, David Rockefeller papers, Rockefeller Foundation records, and Winthrop Rockefeller papers provided me the opportunity to trace the underlying social and material networks of the industry, especially in terms of cattle breeding and ranch development. Moreover, the scientific reports from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and Ford Foundation (FF) archives provided me with insights into the increasingly global nature of cattle production, the role of beef in development projects, and the ways in which such institutional knowledge is deeply connected to specific local environmental conditions. Throughout this report, I argue that by more clearly understanding the complex networks that were motivated and constructed through Rockefeller financing, scholars of 20th century livestock and meat production can gain a deeper sense of the vital role that cattle have played in shaping mid-20th century agricultural practices in the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, such records highlight the importance of continuing to promote histories that de-emphasize western centers of power as arbiters of science and development. As I reveal in this report, projects sponsored by individual Rockefeller family members, as well as by the RF, FF, and IBEC were negotiated processes that were constrained by particular social and environmental conditions.
The activities of the American International Association in Brazil and Venezuela have attracted the attention of scholars interested in examining the organization as an example of the complex economic, political, and cultural relationships between the United States and Latin America in the mid-twentieth century. A 2013 historiographic essay by Claiton Marcio da Silva on scholarship concerning the AIA's initiatives in Brazil reveals a particular interest among Brazilian scholars in Nelson Rockefeller's economic and political influence as projected through the AIA and affiliated organizations, including the International Basic Economy Corporation. As da Silva notes, debate within Brazilian scholarship prior to the 1990s primarily centered on whether the AIA was a missionary-like endeavor to foster economic development or an imperialist project to establish North American dominance. With the cultural turn in the 1990s, scholars have complicated this narrative with explorations of Latin American participation in the AIA and IBEC, and these organizations' connections to the broader development of consumer culture. Though scholars have become more interested in examining these organizations from a cultural perspective, recent scholarship remains focused on the AIA's efforts to modernize Brazilian agricultural practices. The organization's efforts to spread modern, North American home economics practices to poor rural and urban households remains largely unexamined.
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