Why Study Brazil?

Brazil flag by L.C. Nøttaasen.jpg

Brazil's rich natural resources, dynamic economy and innovative social policies make it a major global actor. 

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest country in the world, both by geographical area and by population with over 210 million people (2016 estimate). Brazil is home to the world’s largest rainforest and hosts thousands of unique species.

Brazil is also one of the largest agricultural exporters in the world, ranking first in sugar, coffee, tobacco, orange juice, beef and poultry; second in soybeans; third in corn; and fourth in cotton.

Like the United States, Brazil has a relatively low trade dependency ratio. It is home to renowned global companies, including, Embraer (aviation), Companhia do Vale do Rio Doce (mining), Itaipu (lhydroelectrical power), O Globo (journalism), Itaú (banking) and Natura (beauty supplies).

More than a half century ago, Brazil adopted a unique energy policy consisting of roughly half renewable, half non-renewable sources. Brazil is also the world pioneer in producing (and consuming) biofuel, mostly cane-based ethanol, as well as natural gas-fueled cars. In a dramatic recent development, a huge "sub-salt" petroleum reserve has been discovered on Brazil’s South Atlantic margin, and there is a great likelihood that similar reserves exist along the largely-unexplored Amazon continental margin. With Petrobras already a global leader in deep-water production, Brazil can anticipate massive fossil fuel revenues for decades to come.   

Brazil has made significant advances in terms of economic growth and redistributing wealth over the last decade, resulting in less inequality and increased opportunities across racial and class divides. The rate of poverty was nearly halved, and the country began to boldly address its racial inequalities with the establishment of a comprehensive system of quotas in its higher education system for the racially disadvantaged.

In terms of global health, the Brazilian government and its internationally-respected health professionals play a unique leadership role in the global fight against AIDS. Brazilian universities dominate world rankings with 65 of the top 250 institutions in Latin America. Enrollment in higher education in Brazil has tripled in the last decade; three quarters of this growth has taken place in private universities. Research productivity in Brazil has also increased dramatically and is by far the largest among Latin American nations. 

These exciting developments have magnified the international prominence of Brazil’s uniquely dynamic social movements and a cultural, spiritual and musical life. Brazil is a compelling object of study for its politics, culture, history and more.