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Brazil is focus of new PIIRS hive of activity

João Biehl (left), the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology, and Pedro Meira Monteiro, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, codirect the Brazil LAB.
Photo: Ben Weldon

A new initiative supported by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) will bring together faculty members from across the University working in and on Brazil.

Brazil LAB will include core faculty members from a range of disciplines. It will receive up to $750,000 from PIIRS over the next three years to support research, conferences and course development.

The effort is led by João Biehl, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology, and Pedro Meira Monteiro, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. They have been at the forefront of several multidisciplinary initiatives — on race and citizenship, global health, and ethnography across borders — that have brought together scholars at Princeton and in Brazil in meaningful conversation about topics of common interest. “In the LAB, Brazil is taken as a dynamic nexus for thinking through pressing issues — from socioeconomic and health inequities to governmental, infrastructural and environmental predicaments to emergent forms of social mobilization and cultural expression that affect people in Brazil and globally, and that are salient to both established scholarship and nascent critical work,” Meira Monteiro said.

With a population of over 200 million, Brazil is a regional leader in South America, and an emergent democratic economy undergoing profound social and political transformation and playing an important role in new South-South exchanges, Biehl and Meira Monteiro explain. “Brazil offers us a privileged vantage point from where to study and develop new agendas around core issues of global significance, such as inequality and social mobility, democratic insecurities, environmental conservation and sustainable development, and urban infrastructures,” Biehl said.

While the research and teaching hub is still developing, the Brazil LAB has already outlined several scholarly activities for the next three years. They include: a PIIRS Global Seminar — “Becoming Brazil” — in Rio de Janeiro, hosted by the Instituto Moreira Salles, which will bring together Princeton undergraduates and Brazillian students; new courses, such as “Brazil and Africa: South-South Linkages,” “Brazil in Global Science” and ”Planetary Amazonia”; a colloquium series on current events; presentation and discussion of  Brazilian and Luso-African documentary films; and the creation of the Transatlantic Images Database, which presents slavery-related visual artifacts produced in Brazil and across the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa, in partnership with Lilia M. Schwarcz, professor of anthropology at the University of São Paulo.

Biehl and Meira Monteiro hope that the Brazil LAB will collaborate with PIIRS’s Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China and M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, as well as the Princeton Environmental Institute, to enable comparative analyses and research collaborations across political economies, ecologies and cultures.

“Responding to emergent problematics in Brazil and elsewhere requires developing our collective capacities to formulate new questions, to promote international and experiential learning, to sustain in-depth reflection and to collaboratively envision alternatives,” Biehl said. “The LAB calls for the production of a more realistic and relevant social science of the present, always attentive to alternatives conceptual frameworks and to imaginations of the future coming from peoples themselves.” – P.M.