“Urbanizing” the hinterland: agriculture-led urbanization in the Brazilian Midwest


In the summer of 2019, with the support of the CLAS Summer Field Research Grant, I spent a month doing preliminary fieldwork in Mato Grosso, Brazil. As a second-year Ph.D. student, the main objective of my trip was to develop exploratory research, visiting different sites, and interviewing a diverse range of actors to inform the definition and writing of my dissertation prospectus. Even though I’m from Brazil, I didn’t know well the region I’m interested in studying in my doctorate, so this trip was crucial in helping me to get to know Mato Grosso better and, consequently, to define my research questions. During my stay, I visited three cities along the BR-163 highway—Nova Mutum (population of 44,000 inhabitants), Lucas do Rio Verde (pop. of 63,000), and Sorriso (pop. of 88,000)—, as well as Cuiabá, the state capital. I made several site visits to each city, driving and walking around different neighborhoods, taking field notes and photographs. I traveled between cities by bus, which also gave me an interesting perspective on the territory. I was also able to visit two different farms—a smaller one, owned by a family, and a larger one, owned by a publicly-traded agribusiness company (Terra Santa Agro)—, and a new corn ethanol plant (FS Bioenergia). I was a participant observant in a promotional event for cotton producers hosted by a multinational company (“Tour do Algodão”, organized by Bayer), and during an entire workday at the Planning Department from the Municipality of Lucas do Rio Verde. I formally interviewed 12 people, including public officials, pioneers who arrived at the beginning of the settlement, the owner of a real estate company, and a journalist, among others (I’m currently in the process of transcribing the interviews). I also had multiple informal interactions and conversations that weren’t recorded but made it into my field notes. The site visits, interviews, and materials collected during my preliminary fieldwork in Mato Grosso led me to new and interesting insights about the initial research questions I had in mind (refer to full report for an extended analysis), and will be very useful in helping me reformulate them to better address the actual issues related to urban planning and development in the region.

Giselle Kristina Mendonça Abreu
Publication date: 
September 15, 2019
Publication type: 
Student Research