Duke Brazil Initiative
The Brazil Initiative aims to develop deeper connections with Brazil through faculty and student research programs, university and industry connections, and efforts to bring leading Brazilian scholars, public officials and artists to Duke. The initiative supports innovative two-way exchanges that foster academic and policy research while establishing new courses and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates at Duke. Past Brazil Initiative projects and events have focused on energy, environment, health, human development, art, politics and governance.
Summary of 2019-2020 Programs
2019-2020 was a milestone year for DBI faculty. Three junior Brazilianists have just been tenured: economist Dr. Marcos Rangel in Sanford School of Public Policy and Drs. Lamonte Aidoo and Gustavo Furtado in the Romance Studies Department. This is a special moment for Duke’s Brazil-interested community because the DBI began seven years ago in the fall semester, prompted by the arrival of Aidoo and Furtado to Romance Studies, with additional faculty subsequently being hired in Biology, Sanford, and the Medical School.
We are also pleased by the books published by DBI leaders and participants. Junior faculty member Christine Folch (Cultural Anthropology), a DBI ex-Director, saw her first monograph on the Itaipú Dam published last year from Princeton. Dr. Folch combines admirable leadership talents with an engaging pedagogy demonstrated in her role leading and creating FHI Humanities Labs and in directing a vertically-integrated Duke Engage project planned pre-crisis for this summer.
While currently wrapping up a delayed book project, current DBI Co-director Esther Gabara (Romance Studies, AAHVS) enhanced her international recognition as the driving force and chief curator for the “PopAmérica!” exhibition developed at Duke’s Nasher Museum; her remarkable book about the exhibit has been widely praised. And finally, another current DBI Co-director, History’s John French, will see his lifelong work come to fruition in October 2020 when his 512-page biography of Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva will be published by UNC Press; the book is featured on the cover of the Press’s latest catalogue.
We began the year with our annual welcome back event with more than 65 participants which, as usual, included an outside speaker, food, drink, and music. The year’s center piece has revolved around the dynamic presence of Dr. Silvio Almeida, a Black Brazilian law professor, philosopher, and activist who is this year’s Mellon Latin American Studies Visiting Professor. As with Ildo Sauer (USP) and Renzo Taddei, his graduate and undergraduate teaching this spring has had a big impact, including a remarkable student-created exhibit on “Black Lives Matter Brazil/USA” that began in his spring class and which is currently being finished by a newly recruited team of undergraduate curators early in this summer.
Our sixth annual Global Brazil Conference in February 2020 was planned by a DBI committee of two faculty and three graduate student that began to meet in October 2019. This collective discussion led to a remarkably coherent thematic focus for the gathering under the title: “Brazil Inside Out: The Arts of Life and Death. “Choosing outside speakers from among those nominated by other DBI Faculty Council members, the conference was a spectacular event in the size of its attendance, its disciplinary and thematic diversity, and quality of its presenters, which included four Brazilians and two from England. It also broke ground because of the variety of forms of expression: a student-led panel presentation on Black lives matters with a short class film; a live performance of a guitar piece by Brazilian classical composer Villa-Lobos by our Romance Studies ABD Marcelo Nogueira; the US premiere of a twenty-one minute video on the grass roots movements for higher ed quotas for blacks by History ABD Travis Knoll; and a dramatic lecture-performance by a Brazilian dancer and anthropologist.
The other high point of the DBI’s activity this year was to have been a spectacular cross-initiative conference on Angola/Brazil expressive culture co-sponsored with the Africa Initiative. Masterfully organized by Katha Wesolowski (Cultural Anthropology), this exciting program conference was cancelled on the very day that the poster, schedule, and speaker bios were to have been released.
2019-2020 Notable Programs