Duke's global centers & initiatives

Duke Brazil Initiative

Mission Statement

The Duke Brazil Initiative (DBI) 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 ongoing 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 2020-2021 Programs

1. The CLACS-sponsored Mellon Visiting Professorship of Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida (Getulio Vargas Foundation and Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Brazil) in the spring of 2020 could not have been timelier. Staying over through the end of June, Dr. Almeida initiated a formal OGA-approved MOU linking his research group and grad students with a DBI-sponsored team who have now finished—after intensive weekly and biweekly meetings—an article for submission to a US law journal entitled: “Ruling Racial Quotas Constitutional in Brazil: How Black Movements Achieved a Resounding Affirmative Action Victory in the Brazilian Supreme Court in 2012.”

• A November 11, 2020 colloquium in History heard Dr. Almeida and two of his grad students discuss an early draft of the paper focusing on Supreme Court Procedures and societal participation.

2. As BLM was reborn in the USA after the killing of George Floyd, Duke saw the establishment of a summer curatorial team of 10 recruited undergraduates, 1 Brazilian, and 2 U.S. graduate students working collaboratively to develop a unique virtual exhibit “Black Lives Matter Brazil-USA: A Global Fight for Breath.” Collaborating closely with the History Department, the DBI was responsible for providing concrete evidence of the commitment–articulated in President Price’s Juneteenth day address of last year—that Duke would position itself as a world-wide leader in anti-racist research and teaching.
The BLM Brazil-USA initiative led to a sequence of events across AY2020-21, even as Duke continued under lockdown, with the final step to be an in-person exhibit in the fall of 2022. Support from the DBI was combined with funds from History, Trinity Arts and Sciences, and the Trinity Social Science Dean to raise $11,000 for the operating budget. Among the events were:
• A September 9, 2020 event by Duke undergraduate students who were in the Spring 2020 class or who served as summer curators.
• An October 7, 2020 launch event for the web site that included reflections by Duke President Vincent Price, Provost Sally Kornbluth, and Trinity College Dean Valerie Ashby as well as the faculty and student leaders of the project.
• The third step was to collaborate on an installation outside Penn Pavilion that opened on Duke’s graduation weekend in May 2021 and will remain throughout the summer. Images in the installation included themes such as “Necropolitics: Racism is a politics of death,” “Racism: It’s Structural,” “Two Nations, Two Pandemics,” “An injury to one is an injury to all,” and “For a Politics of Life.” See attached press release and sequence of clings.
• The project’s next phase will be to open an in-person exhibit in the Classroom Building on Duke’s East Campus in Fall 2021.

3. The DBI leadership is gearing up to collaborate with the new Amazon Humanities Lab funded by the Franklin Humanities Institute, which will launch its activities in Summer/Fall 2021 under the direction of Professors Paul Baker (Nicholas School of the Environment), Christine Folch (Cultural Anthropology) and Gustavo Furtado (Romance Studies/Portuguese).

4. Miscellaneous News: In Fall 2020 DBI Co-director and Professor of History John French saw his lifelong work come to fruition when his biography of Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was published by UNC Press. The book titled Lula and his Politics of Cunning won the 2021 Sergio Buarque de Hollanda Prize for Best Book in the Social Sciences (Latin American Studies Association – Brazil section). Although the beginning of field drilling has been postponed, Dr. Paul Baker (Nicholas School) has landed an additional large grant from FAPESP for his collaborative project on the deep geological history of the Amazon basin from the Andes to its mouth in the Atlantic.

This year also saw the newly tenured DBI faculty member Marcos Rangel (Sanford School of Public Policy) selected for the Graduate School Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Teaching. Moreover, two of the Duke Alumni Association’s 2021 Forever Duke Student Leadership Awards went to graduating Brazilianist graduate students: Gray Kidd (Ph.D., History) and Courtney Crumpler, an MFA in Dance who also won the Dennis A. Clements Outstanding Service Award in Latin American & Caribbean Studies.

Finally, a Duke 2013 PhD Bryan Pitts (UCLA) has just landed a contract to publish his pathbreaking monograph entitled Until the Storm Passes: Politicians, the People, and the Demise of Brazil’s Military Dictatorship with the University of California Press.

2020-2021 Notable Programs

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