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Coming of Age?: Recent Scholarship on Brazilian Foreign Policy

From: Latin American Research Review
Volume 48, Number 2, 2013
pp. 204-217 | 10.1353/lar.2013.0029

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Brazilian foreign policy has never been a major point of interest among the non-Brazilian scholars who call themselves Brazilianists. Over a span of almost thirty years, the four edited collections of that epistemic community’s informal state of the art—Alfred Stepan’s Authoritarian Brazil (1973) and Democratizing Brazil (1989), and Peter R. Kingstone and Timothy J. Power’s Democratic Brazil (2000) and Democratic Brazil Revisited (2008)—have altogether one chapter on foreign relations. A small number of scholarly books have looked at the topic over the past forty years, mostly focusing on historical problems, overwhelmingly on aspects of the relationship with the United States. Ronald M. Schneider’s Brazil, Foreign Policy of a Future World Power (1976) and Wayne A. Selcher’s Brazil’s Multilateral Relations (1978) and Brazil in the International System (1981) stand out as pathbreaking attempts to look broadly at the country’s foreign relations as if Brazil were a significant power or at least a “normal” state from the standpoint of mainstream foreign policy studies. Like some stretches of the Trans-Amazonian Highway, however, bushes and trees progressively invaded the path with years of neglect, a situation that only now appears to be changing. The major exception is Andrew Hurrell and Leticia Pinheiro’s 2006 collection Brazil in the World: Globalization and State Power, which reopened the path but whose broad coverage of issues, intriguingly, is ignored by the many works reviewed here.

While northern (colonial?) area studies remained largely indifferent, a very different scenario was playing out in Brazil itself, where historians and scholar-diplomats have long been engaged in the study of their country’s foreign relations.1 The Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional has been published without interruption since 1958 by the Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais (IBRI). The University of Brasilia (UnB) introduced a graduate program in the history of Brazilian foreign policy in 1984, and for a long while the academic field was dominated by the works of UnB historians, in particular Amado Luis Cervo and Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira. There is also a strong tradition among senior Brazilian diplomats to produce and publish book-length studies about various aspects of their country’s foreign policy: for instance, and among a large number of other works, Fernando de Mello Barreto’s two-volume Sucessores do Barão (2001, 2006), Gelson Fonseca’s A legitimidade e outras questões internacionais (1998) and O interesse e a regra (2008), and perhaps especially Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães’s Quinhentos anos de periferia (1999) and Desafios brasileiros na era dos gigantes (2006).2 In addition, since 1979, the thesis requirement imposed on Brazilian diplomats for promotion has produced a steady flow of monographs from Brazil’s diplomatic academy, the Rio Branco Institute: 618 such theses had been defended by 2011,3 with several of them finding their way to publication through the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation. While the UnB historians and political scientists have arguably kept a dominant position to this day, smaller but very active nuclei have emerged around political scientists Monica Hirst and Maria Regina Soares de Lima at the Rio de Janeiro University Research Institute (IUPERJ) and the Catholic University of Rio (PUC-RJ), whose Institute of International Relations started publishing Contexto Internacional in 1985; at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Rio under Matías Spektor; and in the state of São Paulo at the University of Campinas and the Catholic University of São Paulo, and particularly at the University of São Paulo (USP) and at the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), around José Guilhon de Albuquerque and Tullo Vigevani. The latter two universities have also been publishing Política Externa, “Brazil’s Foreign Affairs,” since 1992. Guilhon Albuquerque’s four-volume collection, Sessenta anos de política externa brasileira,4 testifies to a broad and deep interest in Brazil’s foreign relations but also to an expertise that remained largely in the hands of diplomats and historians, and to an essentially descriptive and historical approach. Of the four volumes’ fifty-five chapters, twenty-seven were written by diplomats and virtually all of them are strictly descriptive. The Federal University...

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