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Date(s) - 02/19/2016
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Waggener Hall

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Please join us at noon on Friday, Feb. 19, in WAG 316 to hear Seth Garfield of
UT speak about “Major Silva Coutinho’s Plant: Guarana and Louis Agassiz’s
Amazon Expedition of 1865–66.” For a pre-circulated copy of Seth’s paper,
email me at bjhunt@austin.utexas.edu.

The history of guarana, a caffeine rich plant native to the Amazon and the
namesake of Brazil’s “national” soda, is one of the least chronicled
among those of the world’s major stimulants. To date, we have yet to
understand the plant’s journey from obscure regional indigenous cultivar to
high-profile ingredient in a multibillion dollar industry. This paper explores
the role of scientists in orchestrating guarana’s broader dissemination in
global research and commercial networks.

João Martins da Silva Coutinho was a Brazilian military engineer who served as
the Amazonian guide for Harvard’s Thayer Expedition of 1865-66, led by
zoologist Louis Agassiz. The latter’s creationist and racist objectives in
surveying the natural history of the Amazon have been amply documented, but
scholars have not focused on Silva Coutinho’s agenda to advance Brazil’s
export diversification and regional integration. An analysis of Silva
Coutinho’s promotion of the guarana trade reveals not only how the Brazilian
engineer’s instrumentalization of science placed him both in line and at odds
with foreign scientists and native peoples. It also demonstrates how the focus
on foodways can offer new angles to understand questions of race, geopolitics,
and national identity in (Latin American) history.


Seth Garfield received his Ph.D. in Latin American history from Yale University
in 1996 and has taught at the University of Texas since 2001. He currently
serves as undergraduate faculty adviser at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin
American Studies and as the director of the Institute for Historical Studies in
the Department of History.

He is the author of “Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil:  State Policy,
Frontier Expansion, and the Xavante Indians, 1937–1988,” and “In Search of
the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region,” both
published by Duke University Press. His research has been funded by the
Fulbright Commission, the National Endowment  for the Humanities, and the
Mellon Foundation.


All the best,
Bruce Hunt
History Department