Cover Image
close this bookThe Fragile Tropics of Latin America: Sustainable Management of Changing Environments (UNU, 1995)
close this folderPart 2 : The Brazilian Amazon
close this folderA fragile capitalism in a fragile environment: entrepreneurs and state bureaucracies in the free zone of Manaus
View the document(introductory text...)
View the document1 Introduction
View the document2 Methodological remarks
View the document3 A theoretical excursus
View the document4 Entrepreneurs and bureaucrats
View the document5 Findings
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences

2 Methodological remarks

Although I had visited Manaus and the Amazon several times for scholarly purposes between 1979 and 1986, fieldwork for the research on entrepreneurs and bureaucrats was actually done in the first semester of 1987. As an anthropologist, I adopted, above all, a typically anthropological methodology. I conducted a series of open, in-depth, formal and informal interviews with entrepreneurs and members of the highest echelons of the federal and state bureaucracies (mainly at Suframa and at one of its subsidiaries, Fucapi, the acronym for the Fundaçao Centro de Anályse da Produção Industrial, or Foundation Centre for Industrial Production Analysis).4 My goal was to understand the basic structures underlying the opinions of the persons interviewed on the subject of "being an entrepreneur in Manaus. " 5

However, I was aware of a basic principle of the social sciences methodology (all the more relevant in a research setting involving so many vested interests of an economic and political kind): people's utterances serve as often to veil their real thoughts as to bare them.6

Therefore, in my effort to understand the deep structures underlying not only the speech, but also the behaviour of my respondents, I often resorted to what may be called the method of internal and external dissonances. By internal dissonances I mean those which occur in the speech of a single individual, in the form of inconsistencies, hesitations, superfluous reiterations, retractions, lapses, and other signs of discrepancy between, on the one hand, the apparent meaning of individual's utterances and, on the other, the person's behaviour and thoughts (the latter discerned through behaviour). External dissonances are those that become manifest when the researcher compares the utterances of two or more respondents judged to be of similar social and economic status (thus presumably sharing the same interests), interviewed on the same subject.

I also made use of written sources. Here I refer less to the rich literature available about Amazonian problems (Benchimol, 1977; d'Ans,1982; Ferreira Reis, 1972; Mahar, 1979; Mendes, 1974; Wagley, 1974; Weinstein, 1986), than to the documentation available in the archives of Suframa, Fucapi, the Commercial Association (Associacao Comercial) of Manaus, and other institutions. Thus, I obtained access to the full text of Resolution no. 023/87, signed by the Superintendent of Suframa, distributing the import quotas for fiscal 1987. I also gained access to the files of every firm registered in the Zona Franca area (indeed in the whole of the western part of Brazilian Amazonia). The combined reading of Resolution no. 023/87 and the Suframa files greatly helped me in my attempt to answer, at least in part,7 the question "who gains and who loses with the creation of the Free Trade Zone of Manaus?"