Felipe Fernandes Cruz

Assistant Professor, 3215270529Tulane University

Award Information

2011 IDRF Program

HistoryUniversity of Texas / Austin

Flight of the Steel Toucan: Culture and Technology in the Brazilian Airspace

This project is a history of aviation throughout twentieth century Brazil. It spans from 1906, when a Brazilian national claimed to have invented heavier than air flight, to the present, where Embraer, a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, has come to be one of the largest companies in the aerospace market. It will simultaneously explore the history of aviation technology, culture and state policy. In doing so it will illuminate the larger processes of territorialization, industrialization, state building and technological innovation in a developing nation. In exploring the history of technology, this project challenges some basic assumptions about technology in Latin America. For instance, unlike a lot of the literature on the technology and aviation which assumes that developing nations always import technology, my project historicizes technical innovation and the generation of new technologies in Brazil. On the cultural front, it explores early aviation as a gentlemanly sport and leisure activity, and its popularization due to extensive efforts by the state. It will show how aviation culture played an important role in the development of Brazilian aviation. Here it will also make an incisive new contribution, showing how social circles involved in promoting aviation throughout the Brazilian countryside actually influenced state policy and even technological research itself. Finally, this dissertation will also explore how the state has used aviation to control its airspace. A country with vast and sparsely populated frontiers, Brazil was a late industrializer that lacked any substantial transportation networks. Much of its process of territorialization (the mapping, controlling and settling of territories) was done by air rather than rail. This dissertation will analyze how such aerial conquest of the frontiers differed from other cases, and how it affected people previously living beyond the reach of the federal state.