documents

When sugarcane meets oil

This summer found Tom Rogers in Brazil, reading rural labor court records in an archive in Campinas, interviewing the president of the rural workers' union in Araçatuba, and digging into the secret police collection at the state archive in São Paulo. Emory's Latin American historian is using these records and oral histories to offer a view into the lives of rural workers in Brazil in the mid-1970s.

This research will inform the book that Rogers is writing on agricultural transformation in one of the most rapidly growing developing countries in the world. Specifically, he is examining the 1975 National Alcohol Program that encouraged ethanol production from sugarcane. That, in turn, brought sweeping changes to northeastern and center-south Brazil and consolidated the industrialization of agriculture.

Besides the politics of that change, Rogers -- a labor and environmental historian -- is interested in the social and environmental impacts of the program. What he is finding is less stability among workers as seasonality increased, access to land for subsistence gardens lessened, and production demands increased.

His summer scholarship will undoubtedly find its way into classes this fall -- both an undergraduate course on Caribbean History and a graduate seminar on Latin American historiography. "Sugarcane obviously looms large in the history of the Caribbean, and I find that inserting a comparative perspective on Brazil (and the United States) can be illuminating," Rogers says. He draws heavily from his own experience to teach grad students about how to hone their own skills as researchers, writers, and teachers. "The best way to teach those things is by mining our own experiences," he says.

Rogers is but one example of a teacher-scholar who is strengthening faculty distinction at Emory. His work also supports focused international activity in Emory's global strategies, a framework that will guide the university for the next five years. In addition to Brazil, the other priority gateway countries identified in the plan are China, Ethiopia, India, and South Korea.