In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Politics of Brazilian Foreign Policy

  • Introduction
  • Brazilian Diplomacy
  • Brazilian Foreign Policymaking
  • Brazil’s Top Foreign Agendas: Investment, the Environment, and Security
  • The Regionalism of Brazil
  • The International Alliances of Brazil
  • Brazil and the Global Order

International Relations The Politics of Brazilian Foreign Policy
Andrés Malamud, Júlio C. Rodriguez
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0288


From November 1902 through February 1912, four presidents governed Brazil. Throughout all this period, though, only one person headed the foreign ministry: José Maria da Silva Paranhos Jr., alias Baron of Rio Branco (20 April 1845–10 February 1912). This political wonder and diplomatic giant was to shape Brazil’s international doctrine and diplomatic traditions for the following century. His major achievement was to peacefully solve all of Brazil’s border disputes with its South American neighbors. Founded in 1945, Brazil’s prestigious diplomatic school carries his name, Instituto Rio Branco, and, since the early 2000s, Brazilian foreign policy has become the largest subfield of international relations in university departments across the country. Indeed, Brazilian foreign policy is to Brazilian academia what American politics is to US academia, namely, a singular phenomenon that has taken over a general field. In contrast with the United States, most in-depth research from about 1998 to 2010 came from foreign-based scholars; however, since then a large cadre of mostly young academics in Brazil have seized the agenda. Unlike the pre-2000 period, the orientation has been toward public policy rather than diplomatic history. That the top Brazilian journals of international relations are now published in English rather than Portuguese attests to the increasing internationalization of the field.

General Overview

The study of Brazilian foreign policy has developed over two broad periods. Until the 1980s, all authors were male and most were Brazilian, most publications were in form of books, and most texts were written in Portuguese. Since the 1990s, more and more foreign authors have entered the field, female scholars (mostly Brazilian such as Monica Herz, Monica Hirst, Maria Regina Soares de Lima, Leticia Pinheiro, and Miriam Gomes Saraiva) became as prominent as their male colleagues, journals became the preferred locus for academic dissemination, and English gradually replaced Portuguese as the language of choice. Textbooks, collections, and local journals reflect this evolution. The Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão (FUNAG), a public foundation linked to the foreign ministry, became a rich source of Portuguese-language publications, encompassing both original texts from local authors and translations of classic foreign works.

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