History ETDs

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In 1975 workers on massive earth-moving machines began excavations in the middle of the Paraná River for what later would become the site of the worlds largest hydroelectric dam, Itaipú Binacional. During the period 1974-1991, the dam was constructed as a joint venture between the military regimes of Brazil and Paraguay and thousands of workers and their families migrated to the borderlands in search of employment. My study uses the conceptual framework of gender and sexuality in order to produce a comparative social history of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam project and the worker communities that it created in the Alto Paraná borderlands. This dissertation incorporates the story of dam workers, including their struggles and their lived experience in the 'company town' and in so-called 'peripheral communities,' into the grand narrative of technological advancement and 'order and progress' embodied by the 'Project of the Century. Rather than being tangential to the story of 'Itaipú,' these protagonists—militant dam workers, housewives, shantytown residents, and sex workers, among others—form an essential piece of our understanding of the impact of infrastructure projects and national development on local communities and identities. The dissertation reconstructs the Alto Paraná as a historical place, shows how the borderlands became the locus of nation building for two Latin American countries, discusses the migration of single male workers and constructions of masculinity, analyzes corporate programs to 'remake' married dam workers into family men and their female partners into housewives, reconstitutes dystopian sexual communities and maps the changing itineraries of male sexual consumption, and concludes by narrating working class political struggles and labor conflict in the context of democratic transitions in both Brazil and Paraguay.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Hall, Linda B.

Second Committee Member

Bieber, Judy

Third Committee Member

Truett, Samuel

Fourth Committee Member

Milleret, Margo



Project Sponsors

J. William Fulbright Fellowship

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