In this talk, Prof. Jacob Blanc (University of Edinburgh) will speak about his forthcoming book on the Itaipu dam and the history of dictatorship and democracy in the Brazilian countryside. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brazilian communities facing displacement by the Itaipu Dam — at the time the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world — stood up against the military officials overseeing the dam's construction. In the context of an emerging national fight for democracy, they elevated their struggle for land into a referendum on the dictatorship itself. Prof. Blanc's talk will look inside the grassroots movements to reveal the shifting meanings of land and legitimacy. Farmers of European descent, racially diverse landless peasants, and the Avá-Guarani Indians not only confronted Itaipu and the military regime; through internal disputes over strategies and demands they defended their own conceptions of land and its role in their particular vision for a future democratic society. In bringing together rural groups of different ethnicities and social status, the case of Itaipu reveals the complexities of politics, identity, and struggle in the countryside.
Jacob Blanc teaches Latin American history at the University of Edinburgh. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2017 and his new book, Before the Flood: the Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil, will be published in December by Duke University Press. He is also the co-editor of Big Water: the Making of the Borderlands Between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay (University of Arizona Press, 2018), and his articles have appeared in the Journal of Latin American Studies, the Luso-Brazilian Review, and the Journal of Peasant Studies.