(Re)constructing a Brazilian model city : discourses of exceptionalism in making and imagining Curitiba, 1900-1945
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My dissertation examines the putative success of Curitiba, the Brazilian capital of Paraná, and seeks to understand how it came to be touted as the model city of Brazil. The standard explication for Curitiba’s success credits the power of a single city agency, the Urban Planning and Research Institute of Curitiba (IPPUC), and the vision of its first president, Jaime Lerner. According to this narrative, in 1971 IPPUC formalized a broad urbanistic vision for the city’s growth and initiated projects aimed at improving traffic congestion, expanding green space, and increasing city and social services. I argue that the narrative of the institute’s contributions provide an incomplete genealogy of Curitiba’s success. It fails to examine the historical context of the city’s status and does not consider the significance of publicity campaigns in sustaining this image. Also, IPPUC’s story is not only tendentious but derivative. My historical research shows how IPPUC has rearticulated longstanding tropes that celebrate the region’s unique characteristics -such as Curitiba’s edenic cityscape and its European social composition- and has recycled deterministic arguments related to race, ethnicity, and geography. My dissertation demonstrates that exceptionalist discourses have circulated for more than a century. I trace these claims from the 1880s to the 1940s and investigate how and why they changed over time. I show that politicians first initiated efforts to promote the region at the turn of the twentieth century to attract European colonists. Over the next fifty years, politicians, elites, and intellectuals forwarded new claims that positioned Curitiba and Paraná as ideal locations for economic and social development. Planning specialists from around the world have closely studied Curitiba’s urban development, but in their analyses they have largely failed to consider the intellectual and social constructs that undergird this story of progress. My dissertation focuses on century-old celebratory claims about Curitiba and reveals the epistemological roots of the current explications of the city’s success.