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2020 NEH Seminar


Seminar themes at a glance

The seminar is divided into three different modules that will be spread over twelve sessions for the duration of the three-week seminar.

Week one: Historical Background and Racial Politics of Brazil

The first week of the seminar will follow a chronological trajectory, beginning with a brief introduction to colonial history and nineteenth-century racial ideologies, urban divisions, Brazil’s position in the “Black Atlantic,” the development of a politicized Afro-Brazilian identity, and the growth of urban segregation and divisions. This will allow us to illustrate race and racism historically, geographically, and culturally as a social process, and to explore how these divisions are embedded in Brazil’s image of an emerging modern power. The discussions will center on readings, as well as analysis of musical and visual examples. Week one includes topics such as “Early Images of Brazil in Global Context: Noble Savages and Indigeneity”; “Brazil and the African Diaspora”; “The Emergence of Modern Brazilian Racial Ideologies”; and “Modernism, Modernity and Miscegenation.” 

Week Two: Modernity and Marginality in Urban and Rural Contexts

The second week of the seminar will take a closer look at the urban vs. rural contrasts that play out in modern Brazil, both historically and in the contemporary context. The focus of this week is to understand how racial and ethnic disparities inform the Brazilian landscape and shape communities that have been historically marginalized. The topics of sessions will include: “Labor, Race and Marginal Urban Spaces”; “Contrasting Images of Urban and Rural Modernisms”; “Indigeneity in Contemporary Times”; “Blackness and Urban Spaces”; “Development, Dams, Stadiums and Modernity”.

Week Three: Cultural Representations of Modern Inequalities

The third week will approach the idea of “failed modernity” from the interdisciplinary perspective of literary, film and cultural studies. In particular, our aim is for participants to make links between the historical, anthropological and social concepts discussed in weeks 1 and 2, and the cultural representations of Brazil’s marginal spaces, racial diversity and social inequalities as depicted in fictional texts, film, music, photography and performance. This week’s sessions will discuss the following topics: “Race and the Body”; “Brazilian Carnival”; “Urban Marginal Spaces”; “Musical Intersections of Gender, Race and Class”; “Favelas and Resistance”. 

Schedule & Course Readings

During the weeks of June 14-July 2, the workshop will meet Monday through Thursday 9am-11:30am. Participants should anticipate reading several academic articles or book chapters per day in preparation for discussion. There will be a film required each week. In addition to the core readings that will form the basis of the seminar, the project directors will be happy to provide additional bibliographies so that participants can deepen their exploration of a given topic if so desired. 

During the afternoons, participants will work on their individual projects, whether curricular- or research-oriented. The project directors will be available to work one-on-one with participants. Two afternoons will offer participants the chance to engage in additional professional development opportunities, with mini-workshops on incorporating the arts into teaching and on best practices for writing productivity. Throughout the workshop, we will also participate in community-based activities, including visits to Brazilian percussion sessions, samba and forro performances, and capoeira classes.

All course readings will be available on the website by May 1st. Prior to the beginning of the seminar, all participants should read Brazil: A Biography by Lilia Schwarcz and Helsoisa M. Starling, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018. 

Participants' Project Schedule

The goal of the seminar is for participants to leave having not only greatly expanded their knowledge of Brazil and of the thematic foci of the seminar, but to have also developed one or both of the following:

  • A detailed course module or syllabus (complete with bibliographies, assigned readings and information about resources) that integrates Brazil in a meaningful way into their teaching.

  • An innovative research project. We will provide tools and resources to guide participants to key texts and databases that will enable them to bring Brazil into the scope of their research, as either an integral part or as point of comparison.

Week 1: Participants will determine their curriculum goals and/or individual research projects. Collaborative endeavors are welcome and will be encouraged.

Week 2: Participants to work on their projects with the possibility of honing the materials they have developed within the seminar (i.e. they present initial ideas to the group for feedback).

Week 3: Participants discuss their projects as a group (revised teaching plans, articles or productions), as works-in-progress or as finished products.

Our hope is that each participant will be able to draw from the seminar’s thematic content to enhance a project germane to their field of study, career path, or personal interests.

Participant Expectations

The morning sessions will rely on discussion and we expect participants to be intellectually engaged in the entire seminar. Participants should come to each meeting with a keen curiosity about Brazil and an earnest desire to broaden their understanding of the region and issues under study.

We expect all participants to fully adhere to the NEH Principles of Civility.

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