Dr Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos, LAC course director and director of the Brazilian Studies Programme, received a John Fell Fund for her project “One Company Towns in Brazil”
Below, a short interview to find out more about her new grant:
LAC: What are One-Company Towns?
Andreza: One-company towns refer to cities that are mainly run by one-company. This model used to include companies that build workers’ houses, that run local shops (pharmacy, bakeries, restaurant), in some cases, such companies also built infrastructure and local services such as schools and churches. Although this development model no longer exists in Brazil, the term is a provocation as in practice, some municipalities still mainly collect taxes from one single company, which is then responsible to finance the city. This means that although the government provides services, many of such public services as well as direct and indirect jobs depend on one-single company, some call these cities “monotowns”.
LAC: What are the main implications of having such model, is it common that one company is responsible for a great part of a city’s economy?
Andreza: When a great part of the GDP of a city comes from one single resource, this economy is generally unshielded. It is common that extractive industries, the focus of this work, are monopolistic and may also lead to a single-company model. When a town focusses on oil extraction, mining, or on the plantation of crops, the extension of activities in area and the economic impact of the production means that other activities satellite around this main activity in the provision of housing and infrastructure to such profitable activity. In events of environmental disaster or economic downturns, the economy of extractive towns is vulnerable. Out-migration, collective episodes of job loss, school evasion, house abandonment, as well as decay of industrial areas follow.
LAC: What are the key objectives of your project?
Andreza: In this project, we look at major extractive cities in Brazil and investigate the activity of companies (competition, direct and indirect jobs offered) as well as the number of substances extracted. We are particularly interested in towns that have one company and one single substance with a great impact in the local economy. After a quantitative and mapping analysis, we will also run a qualitative investigation to see how such municipalities perceive their dependency, some may have diversifying activities in the radar, while others may rely on cycles of prosperity.
LAC: This is fascinating and impactful research, are there future plans to engage locally?
Andreza: This is a seed fund that will lead to future research. Such cities have a peculiar urban growth and migration patterns, usually connected to cycles of prosperity and decay. From city design, gender relations, to health and migration policies, we can look at the impact of extractive industries locally in Brazil. A local impact on economic diversification and sustainable development are major objectives of this programme.
You can learn more about the project here: https://companytowns.web.ox.ac.uk/