Dr Jacob Blanc
BA (Hons), MA, PhD
Lecturer in Latin American history
- Director, HCA Writing Centre
- Postgraduate Recruitment and Engagement Officer
Affiliated research centres
Born and raised in San Francisco, I received my bachelors degree from the University of California-San Diego. After a year working in southern Chile—with a brief, career-altering trip to Brazil—I undertook my PhD in Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I completed my doctorate in spring 2017 and subsequently moved to Scotland to begin a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh.
Peer reviewer for:
- Bulletin of Latin American Research
- The Journal of Peasant Studies
- The Journal of Latin American Geography
- Revista de Historia Iberoamericana
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Latin America
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Twentieth Century & After
My research explores the social, rural, and environmental history of Latin America. Whereas most scholarship on Latin America, especially for the modern period, focuses on people and events in urban areas, I seek to show the parallel and independent histories that unfolded in the countryside. The rural experiences of social struggle and political opposition challenge both the spatial and the conceptual frameworks commonly used to study ideas of citizenship and national inclusion. Without discounting the importance of urban histories—and their close links to rural and other interior environments—I approach Latin American history from the perspective of the various people and landscapes that dot the countryside.
Current research activities
I am currently working on a history of the Prestes Column rebellion, one of the most mythologized events in Brazilian history. From 1924 to 1927, junior army officers led by Luiz Carlos Prestes marched nearly 25,000 kilometres across Brazil's interior. While the Prestes Column has inspired dozens of popular and academic works, I chart a new approach. Rather than treat the Column's passage through the interior as a backdrop to the rebellion, I focus on the interior regions themselves. By analysing the rebel journey through the interior and also how that experience has been depicted by an entire generation of Brazilian leaders, I explore the Column's political and conceptual significance throughout the twentieth century.
My first book (Duke University Press, 2019) is Before the Flood: the Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil. It uses the history of the Itaipu dam—a mega hydroelectric complex built on the Brazil-Paraguay border in the 1970s and 1980s—to open new understandings of dictatorship, democracy, and the environment in Brazil. Itaipu was the largest dam in the world and a physical embodiment of the military’s geopolitical ambitions. Its construction, however, displaced over forty thousand rural Brazilians. I trace the mobilizations of farmers, landless peasants, and indigenous communities to show how Brazil’s dictatorship (1964-1985) was experienced and contested by rural communities.
The book’s core theoretical contribution is the idea of visibility: how do certain rural communities become seen as legitimate social actors, why are others rendered invisible, and what space does the countryside occupy in national imaginaries? Under the global spotlight cast by Itaipu, the farmers, peasants, and Indians elevated their fight for land into a referendum on the dictatorship itself. Rural invisibility and rural violence existed under military and civilian rule alike, but its perpetuation at a moment of alleged reopening exposes the contradictions of Brazil’s transition out of dictatorship. For many communities like those at Itaipu, democracy remained a distant reality despite the official return of a civilian regime in 1985. At the intersection of agrarian history, development studies, and political history, my book argues that a rural perspective can challenge the dominant chronologies of dictatorship and democracy in Brazil.
- Beyond Dictatorship: Human Rights in Latin America
- Landscapes of Power: Brazil and its Histories
- Global Connections since 1450
- The 'Other' in Latin American History
- American Borderlands: Histories of the Western Hemisphere
- Modern Latin American history
- Introduction to Contemporary History
- Methods of Environmental History
Currently accepting research student applications : Yes
Areas accepting Research Students in:
My supervision scope includes modern Latin America (particularly Brazil), and themes of dictatorship and social movements.
Books - Authored
Blanc, J. (2019) Before the Flood: The Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Books - Edited
Blanc, J. and Freitas, F. (eds.) (2018) Big Water: The Making of the Borderlands Between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. University of Arizona Press
Blanc, J. and Sánchez-Calderón, V. (2019) La historia ambiental latinoamericana: Cambios y permanencias de un campo en crecimiento. Historia Crítica , 74, pp. 3-18DOI: https://doi.org/10.7440/histcrit74.2019.01
Blanc, J. (2018) Itaipu’s forgotten history: The 1965 Brazil-Paraguay border crisis and the new geopolitics of the Southern Cone. Journal of Latin American Studies, 50(2), pp. 383-409DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022216X17000049
Blanc, J. (2016) The last political prisoner: Juvêncio Mazzarollo and the twilight of Brazil’s dictatorship. Luso-Brazilian Review, 53(1), pp. 153-178
Blanc, J. (2015) Enclaves of inequality: Brasiguaios and the transformation of the Brazil-Paraguay borderlands. Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(1), pp. 145-158DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2014.967685
Blanc, J. (2018) A turbulent border: Geopolitics and the hydroelectric development of the Paraná River. In: Blanc, J. and Freitas, F. (eds.) Big Water: Environment, Belonging, and Development in the Borderlands of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. University of Arizona Press, pp. 211-241