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“Debating Resource Scarcity, Global Population, and Hunger in the early Cold War—a View from Brazil”
Eve Buckley, University of Delaware
In the early 1950s, Brazilian physician and nutritionist Josué de Castro published a book--entitled The Geography of Hunger in its English translation--that emerged from his decades-long examination of chronic starvation in his native city of Recife, Brazil. The book, translated into twenty languages during the 1950s, received reviews both laudatory and scathing in the global press. It was a response to American conservationist William Vogt’s 1948 publication The Road to Survival, which warned of a looming population crisis due to soil depletion and limited ecological “carrying capacity” in many regions. Vogt was unapologetic about the need to curb reproduction in what would soon come to be termed the third world, and he excoriated the medical profession for enabling population growth by reducing infant mortality, particularly in Asia and Latin America. Stemming from his lived experience among people whose unmanaged reproduction Vogt feared, De Castro countered the American’s call for population control by asking readers to confront the geopolitical injustices that made the global poor chronically hungry. Until his death in 1973, De Castro sought to reform global political and economic structures that failed to prioritize food cultivation and access (including in his role as President of the UN FAO’s Executive Council from 1952-1956). This paper analyzes the work of Vogt and De Castro, emphasizing their contrasting forms of encounter with the subjects of their analyses and the different affective rhetorical strategies that each employed.