June 14 – July 2, 2020
The Making of Modern Brazil: Marginal Spaces, Race, and Modernity
Over the past few years, Brazil has been in the international news for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the impeachment of President Rousseff and most recently the fires in the Amazon. This interdisciplinary NEH Summer Seminar hopes to bring together colleagues interested in topics such as modernity, racial politics, urban spaces, indigeneity and cultural marginality, and whose work may be tangentially related to Brazil or who are simply curious about Brazil. We also welcome scholars from all fields who would benefit from the seminar’s connections to wider Latin America, the Global South, and the Black Atlantic.
How can we understand Brazil’s historical and contemporary inequalities? How do these inequalities relate to physical, social, racial, and gender divides? How do inequalities shape the creation of spaces thought of as “marginal” to Brazilian society? How does all of this inform Brazil’s quest to be a modern and prosperous global super power?
Over the course of three weeks, this seminar will foster the creation of an intellectual community focused on learning and sharing ideas about modern Brazil and relevant to participants from a variety of academic backgrounds. As we meet to discuss articles, book chapters, films, art and other forms of expression and information (as diverse as NPR podcasts to wooden engravings), the ultimate goal is that each participant will leave the seminar with several tangible outcomes for the time invested.
By allowing a balance between workshops and personal research time, the seminar will create the ideal environment for participants to develop a new course module that would include Brazil or to write a substantial section of a larger research project drawing from the readings and discussions. The Project Directors hope to serve as a resource to help tailor each participant’s project to their desired outcome.
Since the turn of the century, Brazil has been constantly featured in the international news as it emerged as a major world power and gained global visibility as one of the world’s most promising developing economies through its membership in the BRICS block. Brazil’s rise was featured on the 2009 cover of The Economist, which depicted Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue digitally transformed into a rocket blasting off into outer-space, representing the country’s spectacular launch to economic prosperity and geopolitical significance. But a mere four years later, The Economist‘s cover depicted the same statue spiraling downward with the caption “Has Brazil blown it?” These golden years of economic expansion transformed into a full-on economic recession by 2014, with the World Cup and the Olympic Games (respectively from mid-June to mid-July 2014 and August 2016) just around the corner, catapulting Brazil’s flawed modernity, political instability, and social inequality into the international spotlight. This situation was only heightened by the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016 following her suspension from office in May of that year—only weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio. More recently, Brazil, and the Amazon region in particular, became the focus of global outcry, as fires consumed the forest.
Because of Brazil’s geographic position (it shares a border with every country but Chile in South America), its global economic significance, and its importance for planetary environmental sustainability, knowing more about Brazil– and disseminating this information to others through research– and teaching is relevant and critical.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the topics of the seminar, our aim is to bring together a dynamic group of scholars working in different disciplines. In order to focus our discussion, we will provide background and tools for participants to reflect on issues of marginality and racial inequality in relation to physical urban and figurative social spaces. While focusing primarily on Brazil, many of the readings that form the basis of our discussions explicitly or implicitly make connections with the United States, other countries of Latin America, or areas of the so-called “developing world.” The seminar schedule allows for intensive reading and discussion but also provides sufficient free time for participants to work individually on their projects. We will take the learning experience beyond the classroom to include opportunities to learn from and with the vibrant Brazilian community in the San Diego and Southern Californian region through engagement with local music, art, and dance groups.