Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Amy S. Bix


This study explores the period from 1956 to 1960, when Brazil officially relocated its political center from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia. It examines the complex process of defining national identity for Brazilian citizens in a frontier city, within the framework of conflicting racial, social, and gender roles and expectations. Methodologically, this work is based on an extensive research of Brasilia's public records, newspapers, and oral-history interviews with some of the men and women who lived and worked in Brasilia. Most of the primary sources used are found in Brasilia's Public Archives.

Building on existing scholarship, this work expands into the field of gender studies and inequality, and illustrates the intricate ways that the frontier capital's social expectations intersected with pre-established gender roles to create a unique new context of identities. Within this setting, men and women from different racial, social, and regional backgrounds experienced the new urban space in often contrasting ways, with levels of equality, emancipation, and integration varying according to gender, race, and class. This study also argues for the continued existence of regional racism as a reality that complicated the rhetoric of modernization and the goal of shaping a progressive Brazilian national identity, as embodied in the construction of a new capital. It also uncovers the malleability of Brazilians' self-identification, and the importance of terminology in this process. In this sense, Brasilia's inhabitants during the 1950s described themselves as either candangos or pioneiros. This terminology lay at the heart of disputes over inequalities, since each term carried different social and racial values. Finally, this work explores the universe of gender roles and expectations by unveiling how masculinity and femininity were exercised differently in Brasilia, and how conflicting gender manifestations both reinforced and challenged traditional patriarchy, according to social and racial categorizations.

Copyright Owner

Larissa Pires



File Format


File Size

338 pages