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Contemporary Brazil


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA students who have taken at least one course in a relevant area of specialization in the Humanities at undergraduate level.


This course aims to analyze the challenges facing contemporary Brazil as it seeks to overcome structural obstacles to further development, and to enhance its position in the international division of labour and on the world stage. The course begins by briefly tracing the processes of economic, political and social development that have transformed Brazil since the end of World War II. Themes examined here include economic modernization through industrialisation, the legacy of liberal market reforms in the 1990s, the process of democratisation since 1985, and recent social transformaton in the wake of more concerted efforts to tackle poverty. Recognizing Brazil’s current political and economic crisis, the course then moves on to analyse the structural issues that will need to be overcome if the country is to resume a course of sustainable, inclusive growth. These centre on:

  • Political representation, polarisation, multi-party politics and the case for consitutional reform

  • Poverty, income distribution and changes in the labour market

  • Institutions for development and their reform

  • The role of the state: fiscal policy and state-owned enterprises

  • Competitivenss, innovation and the challenge of the global economy

  • The rise of Brazilian multinationals

  • Corruption and transparency: from Mensalão to Lava Jato

  • The environmental challenge

  • Brazil on the world stage: global ambitions and frustrations

The teaching materials will comprise slides (to be posted on Brightspace) plus selected texts (please see below).
Teaching materials used: readings and lecture slides.

Course Objectives

Academic skills that are developed include:

Oral presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience;
  3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:

  1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
  2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
  3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

  1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
  2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
  3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
  4. to design under supervision a research plan/paper of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
  5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Seminars

Assessment Method


The papers for students taking this course as part of their LAS Research Master are expected to formulate a research question that is strongly theoretically embedded and related in their case study to a key debate on Latin American Modernities (discussed in the ResMA core courses). To this end, ResMA students can request one extra individual meeting focused on helping them develop their theoretical framework accordingly.

  • Paper

  • Oral presentation.


To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average

  • Paper 60%;

  • Group Presentation 40%


In the case of essays, resubmission in the case of a failed assignment is possible. The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission is a 6.0.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Key bibliography:
E. Amann & A. Barrientos (eds.) (2017) Special Issue of Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance on Brazilian Development Model
E. Amann & A. Barrientos (2015) ‘Is there a Brazilian development model?’, UNDP Policy in Focus, No.33
W. Baer (2013) The Brazilian Economy, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Press (Chs. 1-3)
B. Fausto (1999) A Concise History of Brazil, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Chs 5-6)
A. Fishlow (2011) Starting Over: Brazil Since 1985, Washington DC: Brookings Institution (Chs. 1-2)
R. Ioris (2014) Transforming Brazil: A History of National Development in the Postwar Era, Basingstoke: Routledge (Chs. 1-2)
M. Reid (2015) Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power, New Haven: Yale University Press (Part II)
R. Roett (2011) The New Brazil, Washington: Brookings Institution (Chs. 5-7)

Note: These are introductory readings and further readings in connection with sub-topics will be recommended once the course begins. It is recommended, though not essential, that students review the chapters cited above prior to the commencement of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.