3999 - Formalizing Labor and Citizenship in the Brazilian Amazon During World War II

During World War II, the United States government became directly involved in the Amazon rubber trade following the loss of its traditional Southeast Asian markets to the Japanese. Labor relations on the Amazon rubber properties suddenly became a matter of U.S. national security—albeit a highly controversial matter. Policy makers bickered over whether higher commodity prices and social welfare legislation would promote greater labor productivity or antagonize bosses. The Vargas regime also vowed that state intervention in the Amazonian economy would “redeem” the region.

This paper looks at government efforts to formalize labor and citizenship in the Amazon. It explores the impact of progressive ideologies in Brazil and the United States on the formulation of public policies for the Amazon. Although such efforts proved largely unsuccessful, the paper argues that the historical and juridical precedents established during the war are important for understanding the evolution of struggles for human rights in the Amazon.

Keywords: rubber, Amazon, World War II

Author: Garfield, Seth (University of Texas at Austin, Ud States of Am / USA)


University of Vienna | Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43 1 4277 17575