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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Daniel Gordon

Second Advisor

Jennifer Heuer

Third Advisor

Joel Wolfe

Subject Categories

Cultural History | Diplomatic History | European History | Intellectual History | Latin American History | Political History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


This dissertation is a case study in the international exchange of ideas. It begins with the 1934-­‐1940 French University Mission to establish the University of São Paulo—Brazil's premier institution of higher learning. I argue that the experiences and intellectual networks that French intellectuals formed with Brazilian social scientists in the 1930s provided a conceptual framework for thinking about France and its role in a postcolonial world. Brazil and its intellectual traditions forced thinkers such as Claude Lévi-­‐Strauss, Fernand Braudel, and Roger Bastide to engage race and racial politics in a new key. By demonstrating the substantial links between Brazilian and French intellectuals as well as the influence of Brazilian ideas on French intellectuals, I make the argument that Brazil exported ideas about race-­‐relations and what it means to be a modern multi-­‐racial and post-­‐ colonial state. The argument is significant because it challenges the traditional, if simplified, view, of colonial economies and the relationship between the developed and developing world. This standard view held that the West produced knowledge, technical know-how, and manufactured goods out of raw materials supplied by the rest of globe. As a result of the French University Mission, well-defined intellectual networks developed between French and Brazilian intellectuals that were not defined by an easy power differential. By demonstrating the substantial links between Brazilian and French intellectuals, and documenting the influence of Brazilian social scientists on French intellectuals, I invert this traditional model and show that Brazil was a source for thinking about France and its global role going forward. The purpose served by the Franco-Brazilian intellectual network differed according to nationality. This is why I adopt a transnational perspective on the international circulation of ideas. For Brazil, but more specifically, São Paulo, the establishment of the University of São Paulo provided Brazilian thinkers with access to the international social scientific community. While the U.S. certainly supplanted France post-war, Brazilian intellectuals retained affection for French thinkers that they did not confer on U.S. social scientists. As for France, this intellectual network provided French intellectuals with the resources to reinvigorate its own social scientific traditions in an era of increasing specialization. This is an argument that runs counter to the argument of the influential intellectual historian, H. Stuart Hughes, who argued that French social science between 1930 and 1960 suffered from being self-enclosed within a national tradition. What makes the story of Franco-Brazilian intellectual and cultural relations from the interwar era through the mid-1960s particularly compelling, however, is that the interest in Brazil as a model for France's future did not remain a matter of academic interest. Between 1959 and 1964, a brief period of time in which Charles de Gaulle radically shifted gears from waging a bloody colonial war in Algeria to developing a politics of cooperation with the developing world, Brazil became an important site of contention between the French left and right. During this period, André Malraux, Jean-Paul Sartre, and de Gaulle himself visited Brazil. I argue that these visits, which were highly visible international spectacles, call attention to overlooked dimensions of geopolitics. Because most American-based French and Latin American scholars who work on international relations focus their attention on colonial relationships, or interactions with the United States, the relationship between mid-level powers, such as France and Brazil are neglected. In this dissertation, I argue that the cultural policy France developed with Brazil and other Latin American nations is integral to understanding what de Gaulle meant by an independent foreign policy in the Cold War era. This does not deny American hegemony, but rather shows how "soft power" provided room for challenging that dominance. I also argue that the shift to a politics of cooperation with the developing world was only possible given the French government's earlier efforts, such as the French University Mission to Brazil, to establish closer ties to Latin America.