Historian Jacob Blanc arrives at ISID

Published: 1 August 2023

The Institute for the Study of International Development is pleased to welcome Professor Jacob Blanc as a new appointed Faculty member.  Professor Blanc is jointly appointed with the Institute and the Department of History.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jacob received his BA from the University of California-San Diego. After a year working in southern Chile—with a brief, career-altering trip to Brazil—he undertook a PhD in Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After completing his PhD in 2017, he worked at the University of Edinburgh, receiving tenure in 2022, before accepting the new job at McGill starting in 2023.

Jacob Blanc's research explores the overlap of human rights and social movements across 20th century Latin America, with a particular focus on Brazil.

His first book, Before the Flood: the Itaipu Dam the the Visibility of Rural Brazil (Duke University Press, 2019) traces the protest movements of farmers, peasants, and indigenous groups in Brazil who were displaced by the Itaipu hydroelectric dam in the 1970s and 1980s. At the nexus of global energy regimes, Cold War militarism, and grassroots social movements, the book’s central concept of visibility tethers the actions of displaced groups to the more endemic issues of repression, resistance, and representation in Latin America.

His second book (forthcoming with Duke University Press) uses the Prestes Column rebellion in the 1920s to chart a spatial history of development and nationalism in Brazil. Whereas the legend of the column—and all existing scholarship—has focused on the heroic details of the 15,000-mile rebel march across the country, he reinterprets its legacy through the symbolism of Brazil’s interior. The book is titled The Prestes Column: an Interior History of Modern Brazil.

A third book (also forthcoming, with the University of North Carolina Press) is a biography of a former political prisoner and exile. Searching for Memory: Aluízio Palmar and the Shadow of Dictatorship offers more than just a straightforward biography. By placing his nearly forty hours of interviews with Palmar in dialogue with the public speaking, writing, and advocacy that he has conducted since the late 1990s, he explores the methodological implications of using oral histories to study the legacies of authoritarian rule.

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