Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Political Instability, Modernization, and the Institutionalization of Brazilian Political Science in the 1960s

June 21, 2021

As of the late 1960s, Brazilian political science underwent a process of academic modernization. The field was institutionalized as an autonomous academic discipline and it experienced a theoretical-methodological turn towards scientificity, objectivity, and empirically-oriented methods. In terms of thematic agenda, the discipline envisioned an applied orientation, able to engage in non-academic public debate. Institutionally, political science met a wave of professionalization and academic institutionalization in which several research institutes and graduate programs were created with significant financial support from Ford Foundation's philanthropic funding. In this context, one of the most prominent institutions was Iuperj (Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Estado do Rio de Janeiro), in Rio de Janeiro. Founded by the Brazilian intellectual Candido Mendes de Almeida, the center received Ford Foundation support from 1967 through 1989. This report intends to use the case of Iuperj to show how Ford Foundation policy on social science development in Latin America was articulated on three different, interconnected levels — at the highest ranks of the Ford Foundation's New York headquarters; regionally, at the Office of Latin American and the Caribbean (OLAC) and its Social Science Program; lastly, at the local level, in the grant agreement between the Ford Foundation and the Iuperj.

Political Science

Hookworm Eradication in Brazil and Beyond

August 4, 2020

In the early-20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Board (IHB) traveled to several areas around the world to tackle rural sanitation and hookworm disease. Yet, few historians have endeavored to evaluate the consequences of IHB-led interventions for local populations. This report describes research conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center in order to evaluate the effectiveness of hookworm-eradication measures in Brazil (for my first book project) and worldwide (for a second major research project). I discuss the general content of the hookworm-eradication reports and offer insights into how this body of evidence could be used for scholars working outside of health- or medicine-related fields of inquiry. I argue that the content of the hookworm control reports could be better used by historians with a general interest in inequality.

Brazil: Transition and Reconciliation, a Cold War Strategy

July 7, 2020

My research project analyzes the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, from 1977 (when it was established) to 1983. The Center is important for Brazilian and Latin American history especially because of the iconic discussions within the social sciences about the transition to democracy and the academic and political repercussions of that process. Financed by the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, the Latin American Program was established under the direction of Abraham Lowenthal, with the support of a very selective group of intellectuals, including Robert A. Dahl, Juan Linz, Adam Przeworski, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Albert Otto Hirschman, Guillermo O'Donnell, Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Leslie Manigot, Olga Pelecer de Brody, Thomas Skidmore, Karen Spalding, and Philippe C. Schmitter. The Latin American Program held three big conferences on the subject of transition and published them in four volumes in 1988, under the title Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy, edited by Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead. Albeit the importance of the "Transition Project," not much is known about the organization of the conferences and the involvement of different scholars, students, and government staff at the debates, reports, and meetings held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, already one of the most important think tank organizations in the USA. In this project, I propose to explore the complexity of those debates, the agenda, and efforts to move from dictatorships to democratic governments.

Rural Extension and Agricultural Transformation in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1948-1960

February 13, 2020

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.

From Afro-Brazilian into African Studies

October 30, 2019

My visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was motivated by two interrelated research projects. The first was to study materials related to the transnational construction of the academic field of Afro-Brazilian studies in the 1930s and 1940s. The second project was to focus on the impact of the making of Afro-American studies and African studies proper, in both North and South America, and on the life and trajectories of the independence leaders of African countries from the 1950s – especially the Mozambican, Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. The week I spent at the Rockefeller Archive Center, thanks to a small research stipend which I obtained, has proven highly productive for both research projects.

"Law and Development" in Latin America, 1965-1979

October 28, 2019

In the context of the "Decade of Development," and as part of the non-military strategies of containment of communism, different public and private US. institutions turned their attention to projects of technical assistance in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that sought to modernize the legal systems of the countries of the Third World. In the Inter-American context, several initiatives were promoted under the label "Law and Development" (LD). Financed mostly by the Ford Foundation and USAID, they were conceived and implemented in the 1960s and the 1970s by those institutions, in cooperation with US law schools (Harvard, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Yale, among others) and local universities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru. The common purpose of these programs was the transformation of the national legal systems following the US model. The effort centered on removing obstacles to development attributed to obsolete legal structures and a conception of the role of the law and lawyers incompatible with the challenges of modernization.

The Ford Foundation and Brazilian Economics: Modernization, Community-Building, and Pluralism

October 3, 2019

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the center of gravity of U.S. foreign policy turned vigorously toward Latin America. Technical cooperation and foreign aid initiatives designed for the region regained some of the momentum they had enjoyed during the early years of Truman's Point IV Program. The trend, moreover, was duly accommodated by U.S. philanthropic foundations. The Ford Foundation (FF), which had been very timid in engaging Latin America till that time, decided to launch a massive assistance program aimed at the region, beginning in the early 1960s. If the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) and the newly created USAID did not hesitate to work directly with the governmental apparatus they found in place within the several Latin American countries, the FF preferred instead to assist non-governmental institutions that could provide the human and intellectual capital necessary to overcome the challenges of underdevelopment. Institution-building in the fields of higher education and academic research thus became one of the touchstones of the Ford Foundation's program for Latin America.

The American Legal Programs in Brazil: From Modernization Theory to Human Rights

September 17, 2019

The year 2014 marked 50 years since the civil-military coup in Brazil, on March 31, 1964. Recently, Brazilian historiography has been devoting a renewed interest in this period of the military rule in the country (1964-1985). A common element in the analyses that have developed identifies a significant role for the rule of law-human rights movement in the country, from which it would have been possible to form a systematic opposition to the Brazilian dictatorship that would lead to the transition to democracy. Nevertheless, there is still an existing gap in this discussion about the Brazilian rule of law-human rights movement, which relates to a consistent analysis of the network of politics and practices, connected to the field of law in Western countries since World War II. It is my premise that this analysis will facilitate a better comprehension of the Brazilian transition and its historical connections with the "Global North." The philanthropic foundations played a significant role in promoting this network. My research contributes by filling in aspects of this gap in the Brazilian debate, and provides an analysis of the role played in the rule of law-human rights international movement by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the programs of philanthropic foundations concerning the field of law directed to Latin American countries.

The Rockefeller Foundation (Non) Policy Toward Physics Research and Education in Latin America

September 10, 2019

This report provides an overview of the history of physics in Latin America through the intervention of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is mainly based on reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center, documenting the interaction of Rockefeller Foundation officers with Latin American physicists, providing insight into how these scientists represented themselves. It focuses on the policies of the Rockefeller Foundation behind its support for physics communities and institutions in Latin America from the 1940s to the 1960s. It provides a panoramic – but not exhaustive – view about how these orientations changed according to the group, the topic, and the geopolitical context.

Global Cattle Networks: A Study of Tropical Cattle Raising and Its Emergence within Postwar Development Strategies

August 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.

Heavenly Harvests: Rockefeller Philanthropy, Agricultural Missions, and the Religious Roots of Development

August 6, 2019

This report examines the relationship between Rockefeller-related organizations and American missionaries who engaged in international agricultural development work during the twentieth century. From the early 1900s forward, Christian missionaries increasingly incorporated agricultural education and improvement projects into their foreign missions programs. Their participation in transnational exchanges—of scientific and agricultural knowledge, farm equipment and livestock, and raw materials, like seeds and fertilizers—prefigured the international development programs that governments and private agencies would begin to undertake, starting in the mid-twentieth century. Materials in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) reveal the close relationships that agricultural missionaries cultivated with philanthropies and non-profit organizations that prioritized rural development. Missionaries relied on funding from these organizations to carry out their work, and yet they also served as sources of local knowledge and expertise for those very organizations when they entered the development field themselves. Based on research conducted during the spring of 2018, this report details findings about the nature of the relationship between development-oriented philanthropies and agricultural missionaries. It draws from several RAC collections—especially those of the International Education Board (IEB), the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA), and the Agricultural Development Council (ADC).

A Tale of Missed Opportunities: The Role of the United States in the Protracted Modernization of Brazilian Capitalism

November 13, 2017

From the Monroe Doctrine in the first quarter of the 19th century to the Good Neighbor Policy in the 1930s, the United States has continuously sought, in a consistent, multifaceted, and persistently paternalistic and often violently interventionist fashion, to exert its economic preponderance, political leverage, and cultural sway in the Western hemisphere. In the second half of the twentieth century, this regional pattern of behavior acquired a new, more concerted, and unprecedentedly self-professed benevolent format. Cold War dynamics required an original set of policies from the Colossus of the North in order to deal with the rising demands for economic prosperity and political democracy burgeoning across Latin American nations.

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