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Recently completed field studies and research from primary sources on Brazil constitute the main interest of this seminar. Brazilian, the U.S. and other visiting scholars participate, contributing their interpretations of recent events. Portuguese may be spoken whenever convenient.

Professor Diana Brown

Professor John F. Collins

Professor Sidney M. Greenfield

Professor Vania Penha-Lopes 

Fernanda Dias

Meeting Schedule

09/08/2022 Zoom
7:00 PM
“Guaraná: The History and Historiography of a Brazilian National Icon.”
Professor Seth Garfield , University of Texas, Austin


Although guaraná soda is an icon of Brazilian national identity—just as Coke is in the United States—we have lacked a full-length academic study in Portuguese or English dedicated to the history of the beverage or the namesake Amazonian plant. The omission is curious, given the extensive historiography on samba, Carnival, soccer, and other hallmarks of Brazilian nationalism that are often touted as indicators of the nation’s so-called racial democracy. This talk examines the epistemological biases and evidentiary challenges that contributed to this lacuna, detailing new methodological approaches that can shed light on the voyage of a pre-Columbian cultivar of the Sateré-Mawé people to the trace ingredient of a multi-billion dollar industry, and suggesting new directions more broadly for Brazilian historiography. As a flash of Indigenous empowerment, a fetish of Brazil’s scientific community and agro-industrial economy, a conjurer of myths of race and nature, and a figuration of modernity in the “land of the future,” guaraná offers multiple arenas for historical and ethnographic investigation.

09/29/2022 Zoom
7:00 PM
The Implications of the October 2, 2022 election for the Future of Brazil | joint session with The Seminar on Latin America
Professor Vânia Penha-Lopes, Bloomfield College


In 2018, Brazil elected Jair Messias Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman and retired army captain. His presidential campaign focused on ridding the country from corruption, curbing leftist educational pedagogy, and promoting public safety, which included making it easier for civilians to arm themselves. He also negated the existence of racism while referring to racial-ethnic minorities in dismissive ways and fostered both a misogynist and a homophobic stance. Throughout his campaign, Bolsonaro made obvious his admiration and emulation of Donald Trump, the U.S. president at the time. Bolsonaro won both rounds of the presidential election, ultimately garnering 55% of the electorate. He won in the 10 wealthiest cities and in overwhelmingly White municipalities, and he also did well among Evangelical voters, with whom his conservative agenda resonated. Overseas, his most impressive win was in the United States, where the majority of the expatriate Brazilians who are eligible to vote reside. During his tenure, charges of corruption were leveled against him and his family, violence indices have gone up, and the economy has regressed to the point where famine is again a most pressing issue, all in the context of the viral pandemic that, like Trump, Bolsonaro all but ignored. In less than a month’s time, Brazil will ready itself for a new presidential election. This time, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president who was imprisoned and prohibited from running in 2018, appears as Bolsonaro’s strongest opponent, according to the latest surveys. Ever Trump’s follower, Bolsonaro has questioned the legitimacy of electronic votes and has more than hinted that he will not accept defeat. This presentation examines the stakes of the imminent Brazilian presidential election: the polarization between Bolsonaro and Lula constituents despite the presence of other candidates; the impact of presidential debates; the role of race, class, and religion; the increase in political violence; and the threat to democracy in Brazil.

10/03/2022 Zoom
7:00 PM
From Bolsonarism to pandemic alt-sciences: a digital anthropology approach to anti-structural publics in Brazil
Letícia Cesarino, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

11/17/2022 Zoom
7:00 PM
"Remembering the Coup, Celebrating the Revolution: Securitization of Memory and Mnemonic Disputes in Brazil."
Erica Simone Resende, University of Copenhagen

12/15/2022 TBD
7:00 PM