From "German Danger" to German-Brazilian President: Immigration, ethnicity, and the making of Brazilian identities, 1924-1974 Open Access

Goodman, Glen Skiles (2015)

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The arrival of tens of thousands of German-speakers to Brazil's shores in the 19th and early 20th centuries in part realized the dream of many among the intellectual and political elite. They imagined German and other immigrants embody cultural and eugenic traits that would help resolve a host of Brazil's problems, from issues of land tenure to fears of racial "degeneracy." The immigrants themselves did as immigrants the world over: forged communities and lifeways that drew on pre-migratory experience while responding to and shaping their new contexts. Tectonic shifts in politics and society during the 1930s and 40s engendered reinterpretations of what constituted Brazilian identity; a new and state-sponsored Brazilianness recast what had previously been considered the nation's problems as its strengths. Consequently, the various ethnicities that had arisen as a consequence of mass European and Asian migrations--in particular, Germans--emerged as an internal other, at once in Brazil but dangerously not of Brazil. This presented German-Brazilians with a radically altered landscape within which to assert both national belonging and ethnic difference. However, within a generation the ground had shifted again and Germanness reemerged under the military dictatorship as one possible, idealized sort of Brazilianness. This dissertation traces the shifting meanings and understandings of Germanness in Brazil at various junctures from the 1924 centenary of German migrants' first arrival in southern Brazil to the sesquicentenary celebrations in 1974. It demonstrates the ways that various historical actors shaped Germanness as both a set of traits and practices and as a rhetorical identity discourse. In so doing, this dissertation reveals the stakes of ethnicity for self-identifying German-Brazilians and for others. At various historical junctures in mid-twentieth century Brazil, ethnicity variously helped or hindered a host of diverse political projects--most consequentially the consolidation of official discourses of Brazilian identity. As this analysis demonstrates, during the fifty years in question and in the minds of many Brazilians, Germanness transitioned from a positive quality of a national "other" to an existential internal threat to an idealized aspect of Brazilianness.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Presenting the Past: Contesting and Constructing German-Brazilian Identities through Historical Narratives c. 1924...19

The Roots of German Immigration to Brazil...24

The Rise of one Empire, the Decline of Another...35

Moment of Crisis: German-Brazilians and the First World War...39

Conflict in Brazil after WWI...43

The Centenary of German migration: Ethno-Civic or Ethno-Centric Celebrations?...47

Chapter 2: Seeing "Germans" through the Lens of the Estado Novo...70

The New State of Ethnic Identification...75

A Vision Thwarted: The Rise and Fall of the 25th of July Movement...80

Germans in the Eyes of the State...86

The Dangers of Ethnic Sociability...89

Finding Danger in the Factory...94

Educating the Public...98

Chapter 3: Hungering to Help: Ethnic Strategies and the Reemergence of Ethic Identities in Post-War Brazil...113

After the Fall...115

Helping Hungry Europe...118

Helping Europe, Helping Ourselves...122

Evolution of a Strategy...130

Speaking Volumes with Silence: Identity and Language...138

Chapter 4: Was will der Centro Cultural 25 de Julho de Porto Alegre?...156

Antecedents to the CC25J: Federação 25 de Julho and the SEF...157

Foundation of the CC25J of Porto Alegre...163

Who were the Original Members?...165

Economic Activity...170

Various Networks among the CC25J's Members...175

The CC25J and the Emerging Post-War World...177

Searching for an Ideal Partner...179

Chapter 5: Rhetorical integration, embodied difference: the Sesquicentenary of German migration's divergent discourses of identity...187

Celebrating Germanness in time and space...190

Evoking the Past, Commemorating the Present...198

Pageants of whiteness...202

Coronation of whiteness...206

Diverging paths of whiteness...212

Transnational limits of representation...219



Translation of DOPS communique...241

Queen of the Sesqui contestants...242

Primary Material...246

Works cited...247

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