January 20, 2023
Dr. Cassidy’s Research Published in Scholarly Text
Upper School history teacher Dr. Gene Cassidy’s research is now a chapter in a book published in partnership with the Center for European and German Studies at UFRGS and PUCRS in Brazil! Written in Portuguese, Passado e Presente de Imigrantes Alemanes e Descendetes no Brasil addresses 19th-century German immigration to Brazil and the impact of those German settlers on the local culture in the past and present. Cassidy is part of a small cohort of scholars who studied German history and then became interested in Latin America.
Cassidy said his topic in the book “looks at the intersection of the German idea of colonialism and the institution of slavery in Brazil. “Basically, it used to be that we didn’t think of German colonialism until the 1880s when Germany got its first colony in Africa,” he said. “Since then, we’ve done much more thinking about the idea of colonies as more than where your flag is flying.”
A confluence of reasons led to the influx of Germans to Brazil. In the early 1800s, Brazil, which had a large Afro-Brazilian population, wanted to “whiten” their population and populate the lower area of their country near Uruguay with settlers to stave off any potential encroachment of Argentina on this land. The Brazilian government gave individuals in the German states land and tools to develop communities. Simultaneously, a downturn of the German economy due to the flooding of British goods after the Napoleonic War forced many Germanphones to seek opportunities overseas. Starting in 1819, Brazil began getting immigrants from Germany, receiving the second-largest group of Germans beyond the United States.
These German speakers developed small towns and cities in isolated areas of southern Brazil that were exclusively German-speaking, essentially re-creating a Teutonic ideal in the Brazilian wilderness by intermarrying with one another and “civilizing” the land through farming. The Germans in Europe start perceiving southern Brazil as a colonial zone; the German settlers are not only remaking the landscape but also the Brazilian people in their image by allegedly refusing to associate with slavery. The German settlers were creating a culture of “work” in a country that the institution of slavery had ruined.
Cassidy’s paper delineates the various representation of Germans in southern Brazil in the German press and German books as presenting them as colonizers who are not just remaking the land but remaking the people through this concept of German work. Many of these 19th-century German scholars lauded these Brazilian “colonies” in contrast to the German immigrant experience in the United States. By assimilating into the fabric of American life, the German immigrant in the U.S. lost their “Germanness,” whereas the Germans in Brazil were considered an ideal.
Cassidy writes in his paper, “Thus, in Germanphone discourses in Europe, the United States represented a sort of graveyard for Germanness, with the immigrants there allegedly lost both economically and culturally to the fatherland. However, Germans in Europe perceived southern Brazil and the settlers in the region in a very different light. Settlers there maintained their Germanness, to a point that it was unmatched outside of German. Furthermore, not only were immigrants there are paragons of German language and culture, but according to sources in Europe, they expressed a special German capacity to engage in the process of civilizing both land and people.”