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 resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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New Paradigms of Urban Planning in Developing Countries and the Ford Foundation: The Case of the Special Programs in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at MIT (1967-1976)

October 28, 2020

This report provides an overview of Ford Foundation (FF) support for the structuring of urban planning theories and methods, responding to the issues facing developing countries during the 1960s and 1970s. My research gathered much data on the FF's support for innovative urban planning and community management in developing countries from the 1950s to the 1990s. However, this report focuses specifically on the support of the Ford Foundation for the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from its establishment in 1967 to the early 1980s. By the early 1980s, SPURS was a durable program which trained dozens of high-profile professionals coming mostly from developing countries. The view of the program provided by the reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center shows the Ford Foundation's contribution and influence in setting up an internationalized professional field for urban planning. The grant records are instrumental for comprehending how this program was both developing an international network of professionals and advocating for housing policies that related to the special needs of self-help squatters' owner-builders. Lastly, my report introduces a discussion regarding the influence of SPURS in the shift of urban planning doctrine for cities of the "Global South" and especially for slums management that was recognized at the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976, more commonly known as Habitat I.

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.

Modernization and Documentary Film in  the Americas

June 29, 2020

Historians and other scholars have recognized the centrality of visuality and images to the modernization theory that drove US policy in the Global South during the Cold War. However, these scholars have so far failed to take into account the process of creating and consuming images and how that process shaped popular and expert ideas of what modernization would look like. Focusing primarily on efforts in Latin America, my book will trace the complex interplay between documentary filmmaking and international development institutions and agencies formed during and in the decades after World War II. This report traces the convergence of economic development and documentary film by examining some of the 1940s productions of Nelson Rockefeller's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), as well as some Rockefeller Foundation agricultural films of the early 1960s. In particular, it looks at a few films made by director Willard Van Dyke, who was trained in the New Deal documentary tradition and went on to make films for both the OCIAA and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program in Mexico: Circulation of Students, Agronomic Professionalization and Modernization, 1940-1970

December 11, 2019

This report, which is part of an ongoing PhD investigation, presents a general panorama of the history of the Fellowship Program in Agricultural Sciences that the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) offered in Mexico from 1940 to 1970. For this purpose, the main subject of analysis is the group of Mexicans – or residents of Mexico – who carried out postgraduate studies, training or research trips abroad, mainly to the United States of America. Furthermore, analysis is also carried out regarding Latin American students who completed courses in Mexico within the Rockefeller program. This initial, and by no means exhaustive, analysis of the subject aims to show the link between the Fellowship Program and the intellectual revolution in agriculture. There was an academic and scientific exchange of ideas, promoted by the RF's philanthropic work, linked with agronomic professionalization and the Green Revolution. These considerations are the basis that will later allow my PhD-level research to center on the itineraries of the fellows. These factors will also provide the foundation for my analysis of the ways in which their aspirations influenced the program, through their adherence, criticism and/or appropriation of the guidelines for the RF's philanthropic work in science and of the agrarian goals of the Mexican government.

"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 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.

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).

Regional Office for the Rio de la Plata and the Andean Region: Circulation of Ideas and Key Players, Argentina (1941–1949)

July 10, 2019

This report examines the activities carried out by the Regional Office of Río de la Plata and Andean Region of the Rockefeller Foundation to upgrade the training of public health professionals and staff from 1941 to 1949. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, special skills and training were essential to address the challenges posed by the eradication of epidemics and pandemics, necessary public works to enhance public health. The regional office was based in Argentina, Chile, Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

The Cultural Project of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) in Latin America, 1940-1950

June 6, 2018

In August 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, concerned with the defense of the Western Hemisphere and, with Nazi infiltration in the Americas, created the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) and appointed Nelson Rockefeller as coordinator. Rockefeller´s particular interest in other American republics "arose from visits and through the activities of enterprises in which he was concerned" particularly in Venezuela (1935), around his interest in modern art, and his familiarity with the health work conducted by the International Division of the Rockefeller Foundation in Latin America. Also, in 1937, he traveled to ten countries to attend to matters connected with the affairs of the Standard Oil Company. After those trips, he became "further impressed with the social and economic problems of the area."

Keeping the League Afloat: The Rockefeller Foundation, Latin America, and the Survival of the League of Nations in the 1930s and the 1940s

January 1, 2017

In 1933, Everett Colby, a lawyer and politician, sent a letter to his former classmate John D. Rockefeller Jr. informing him that he "can no longer advocate the entrance of the U. S. into the League." 1 In 1935, Rockefeller's son and namesake, John D. Rockefeller III, wrote to Colby expressing concern about his father's position vis-à-vis the League of Nations (League). He tried to persuade Colby to write again to Rockefeller and to support the international organization. 2 In a period of political and diplomatic turmoil in Europe and elsewhere, the League's inability to cope with a rapid succession of crises (Ethiopia, Spain, Manchuria, and so on) seemed to leave the institution' reputation in tatters. In this context, officers of the Rockefeller Foundation, which had previously supported the League's activities, revealed that they now doubted the usefulness of the Geneva-based institution.

Adaptations, Organizations, and Intermediaries: Philanthropy and the Reception of Max Weber in Spanish-speaking Countries (1939-1973)

January 1, 2014

The hypothesis I wanted to explore when I arrived to the Rockefeller Archive Center was as straight-forward as this: The reception of Max Weber's ouvre in the Spanish-speaking world could only be explained by the activities of the foundations and the SSRC committees. In certain countries the involvement of the foundations the social science enterprise decisively contributed to make US interpretations of Max Weber predominant. The readings of the most crucial for post-war social science that the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations propounded superseded local, pre-existing interpretations. The main reason is that support from foundations made possible for specific intermediaries to wield enormous influence in the local scene. One main cause is that the foundation chose protégés that were extremely apt individuals and that they managed to establish superior academic bureaucracies. As a response to different difficulties in the large, patrimonial, and cash-strapped bureaucracies in Latin American public universities bureaucracies, foundations moved their protégés to establish new organizations more similar to the ideal type of legal authority with an administrative staff, full-time positions, provisions of the means of production, and appropriate training. Of course, this hypothesis does not purport to claim that the foundations and the SSRC were the only factors in Weber's reception, but it aims to assign these actors their appropriate place in our understanding of how certain adaptations of Weber became so prominent outside the U.S. Apart from the drawing the attention of the researchers towards the part played by the philanthropic foundations and the SSRC in Weber's reception in the Americas, the articles fills a gap in the scholarship on these organizations. Authors interested in philanthropies have reconstructed the impact of these organizations on broader intellectual trends, but not on how they shape the interpretation of individual, but crucial authors like Weber. Despite their significance for the current outlook of both political science and sociology, how these adaptions altered local agreements on what social science should consist of is scarcely known.

Public Health and Hemisphere Defense during World War II

January 1, 2012

My dissertation explores the history of inter-American collaboration in hemisphere defense during World War II, focusing on the construction and operation of a network of U.S. military bases throughout Latin America. By examining issues such as labor conflict, jurisdictional disputes, social relations, and infrastructure development on and around U.S. bases, I explore how the terms of inter-American cooperation in this aspect of the defense effort were negotiated at the local, national and international levels. I am especially interested in how fields such as public health, development and goodwill were viewed as security concerns during this period and became incorporated into plans for hemisphere defense. In the summer of 2012, I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in search of material that would inform the chapter of my dissertation that explores public health work on and around U.S. bases in the region, and to understand more broadly the growing belief in various sectors of the U.S. government that investment in social and economic problems in Latin America would enhance U.S. national security.

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