Flight of the toucans : aeronautics and nation-building in Brazil’s ‎‎frontiers




Cruz, Felipe Fernandes

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This dissertation is a history of the culture, technology and science behind the rise ‎of aviation in Brazil, and its eventual employment as a tool for frontier exploration and ‎settlement. Using the concept of airmindedness, the dissertation starts by exploring the ‎culture surrounding early aviation and its promotion in Brazil. In doing so, it explores the ‎life of Alberto-Santos Dumont, whom Brazilians consider to be the true inventor of the ‎airplane, and the cult surrounding this historical figure. From there, this manuscript ‎explores how the Brazilian state had long been concerned with its inability to control or ‎settle its vast territories, looking at the long history of expeditions and plans intended to ‎explore and colonize the nation’s interior. Aeronautical technology was seen as a panacea ‎for projects of national integration, a way to surge ahead into a future where the nation ‎was connected by aerial networks, without extensive and expensive road or rail networks. ‎During the 1930s, and then in World War II, Brazil’s strategic position in the world led ‎foreign airlines and governments to invest heavily in the country’s aeronautical ‎infrastructure. The state, especially during the Estado Novo of President Getúlio Vargas, ‎also promoted airminded culture and invested on the expansion of the country’s ‎aeronautical potential. As a result, at the end of World War II, Brazil had a vastly ‎improved aviation system, which the state then sought to deploy in the service of ‎connecting the country’s far-flung territories. Finally, this dissertation analyzes the ‎execution of plans to conquer Brazil’s frontiers by air. The Brazilian government ‎employed radical methods of territorialization and colonization by air, creating what I ‎term here as “aeronautical frontiers” – that is, new frontier regions served primarily by air ‎transport. Finally, this dissertation analyzes the impact of aviation on indigenous peoples, ‎as well as how they were a crucial actor in building aeronautical frontiers, while also using ‎their familiarity with the technology as a means of resistance.‎



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