Pomona College

Document Type

Undergraduate Research Project

Publication Date

Summer 9-1-2011


In 2003, residents of the Serra do Brigadeiro Territory, a rural region of Southeastern Brazil in one of the few remaining patches of the Atlantic Forest, learned of a large number of bauxite concessions in their territory given by the federal government to the prominent Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio (CBA), Brazil’s largest aluminum producer. Because the region prides itself on its small-scale agriculture and its lush natural environment, the mining has been the source of much contention in the community. Introduced to the topic by the international conservation non-profit and research center, Iracambi, I spent two months in the territory this summer, exploring how the community perceives the mining. An exercise in anthropological research, this report tries to answer the question: How has the controversy surrounding the bauxite mining informed how the citizens of the Serra do Brigadeiro territory perceive their communal, religious, and individual identities in relationship to the development of their communities? Through formal and informal interviewing, participant observation, GIS mapping, and fieldwork, I concluded that the mining has instigated community inquiry into many facets of the region’s future, including: the fate of family agriculture; the value of ecological resources; globalization and its effect on economic and generational change; the rhetoric used to express opinions on external forces such as bauxite mining; the role of religion in advocacy and conflict mediation surrounding such changes in the region's cultural ecology.


This research project was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant for Environmental Research (administered by the Claremont Colleges) and was made possible by the research assistance and generosity of Iracambi Research and Conservation Center in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

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