Notes on Thomas Rogers’ Deepest Wounds

Thomas Rogers’ “The Deepest Wounds: Labor and Environmental History of Sugar in Northeast Brazil” expands our knowledge in understanding the rupture, continuity and change in the zona da mata region of Brazil. Rogers’ foremost concern in the book is assessing the damage that monoculture did to landscape and society in the region as well as the degree of exploitation within agricultural and labor systems from the colonial to the present day.

Through narratives of labor and agro-environmental history “The Deepest Wounds” examines a wealth of facets within the relations between workers and planters.  Additionally Rogers’ intent is to “reinterpret the episodes of mobilization that reverberated around the country offering broader lessons about how a history of labor overlaps with the agricultural environment’s history.”[1]

Rogers utilizes a diverse set of source materials for this examination including colonial as well as imperial period chroniclers’ and travelers’ accounts, geographic studies, environmental histories, and intellectual reflections of the Permambucan elite class. Rogers gets closer to sugarcane worker’s lives through the slithers of biographical accounts, oral histories, folklore and visitor stories. Rogers admits that sources used to illuminate worker’s lives are thin by comparison with the Permambucan elite, yet the evidence he was able to glean still manages to provide a contextual aspect in the historical genealogy of their day to day lives.

Rogers brings the patrician and plebian together in his discussion on the emergence of modernization within sugarcane cultivation. Rogers explains that by examining the impact of modernization on workers as well as elites a greater contextualization emerges in trying to understand the role of political institutions in modern re-organization of labor.[2]

Thomas Rogers treatment of the zona de mata helps to “make sense of a history characterized as an infliction of wounds.”[3] More than just an environmental determinism wrought by monoculture, Rogers provides the historical, cultural, and political underpinnings of landscape exploitation in the zona de mata.



[1] Thomas D. Rogers, The Deepest Wounds a Labor and Environmental History of Sugar in Northeast Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).4

[2] Ibid, 16

[3] Ibid, 16

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