Studies of the Portuguese-Speaking World

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the Ohio State University offers a pioneering interdisciplinary PhD program in Studies of the Portuguese-speaking World. This program constitutes an excellent platform for those interested in developing innovative research projects related to the diverse linguistic, social, and cultural spaces of the Portuguese language, such as the Iberian Peninsula, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, through a transnational focus that includes articulations with other linguistic and cultural spaces there are relevant within those same regions. 

The ideal candidate is someone with insatiable intellectual curiosity and with training or interest in comparative work, who is willing to take advantage of the strong ties we maintain with the Spanish programs (Iberian and Latin American Studies) offered by the department, and also with those offered by the Department of African-American and African Studies. The study of the cultural production of the African diasporas in the Portuguese-speaking world is one of our priorities. For all these reasons, a strong command of Spanish, as well as English, is a requirement. Furthermore, knowledge of African and/or Amerindian languages -- or the willingness to learn them -- is a plus, as it allows students to develop productive ties with the interdisciplinary program in Andean and Amazonian Studies that the department also offers. 

The department makes available th etechnical and financial resources for a five-year course of study (three years of coursework plus two of qualification exams and dissertation, or four years for those who already come with an MA degree) leading to the PhD in Studies of the Portuguese-speaking World. While we encourage every candidate to take the GRE exam, which may qualify them for University fellowships, Graduate Teaching Associateships (GTAs) constitute the most common form of financial support offered by the department. A GTA includes subsidized health insurance, a tuition waiver, and a stipend that is adequate for the cost of living in the city of Columbus. Admitted students will teach one course per semester and receive pedagogical training from the Language Program. Because the number of Portuguese language coures available varies per semester, our GTAs must be prepared to teach Spanish language courses as well, for which they receive adequate training and support. Periodically there may be opportunities available to teach introductory courses to Portuguese and Brazilian cultures, in Portuguese and/or in English. 

In addition to the financial support offered by the department, students may be eligible for competitive university-wide fellowships. Students can also apply for funds for help with conference and research travel. For more information please contact Prof. Pedro Schacht Pereira or the Director of Graduate Studies Prof. Rebeka Campos-AstorkizaTo ensure consideration, please send applications every year by early December. 

Isis Barra Costa

Assistant Professor in Contemporary Brazilian Cultural and Literary Studies

"It was during my first years of living in the U.S. that I became intrigued by how African Americans and Caribbean Americans imagined Brazil. I sensed that Brazil seemed to exist as a secular myth, a name to be uttered with a certain reverence. I realized Brazil had become an icon protected by fictitious, yet believed, concepts: an illusory metonymy for the creole Americas, and as with all icons, it has a basis in elements of truth. It was at New York University, under the guidance of Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite that I started to develop my main area of research: Afro-Brazil. In order to define Afro-Brazilian, one should start from the beginning, from the qualifying prefix that is joined to the word Brazilian. The fact that we, living in countries established and dominated by European/North American philosophies and cosmologies, remain so ignorant of aspects of life on the African continent has often led us to sweep our lack of knowledge under the carpet and to refer to Africa or sub-Saharan Africa as a uniform whole. Referring to Afro-Brazil using umbrella terms such as Bantu and Yoruba (or Kongo/Angola and Jeje/Nagô) without a clearer reference to specific ethnocultural groups is an impoverished, disrespectful, and rather dangerous generalization. This type of oversimplification reflects a tendency to connect Afro-Brazilian culture to a pan-American/European rather than a pan-African universe. This tendency has been producing historical and political views in which the Africans are seen as half-agents or non-agents of their own history, acting and reacting exclusively according to what was (is) happening in Europe and North America. Historical studies that follow this propensity tend to portray the African as an extraterrestrial creature, parachuting into colonial Brazil with some sort of irreversible historical amnesia. My main area of research is the sacred and secular in Afro-Brazilian culture - a culture conditioned by a history of colonization and continuous intercultural processes and influxes. 

Some of my other areas of research interest include: Interdisciplinary approaches to Brazilian literature and culture. Afro-Brazilian performance, visual arts, literature, and poemusic/orature. Politics of identity, gender, and race in the Americas. Cyber-literature and artivism in the Americas. Performance Studies. Latin American cinema."

Lúcia Costigan

Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

"Perhaps because I was born and raised in a Brazilian state that borders with Bolivia and Paraguay, I always saw Bracil in connection with other Latin American countries. Upon obtaining a BA in modern languages and literatures and cultures, I received a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the US. While working toward my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the literatures and cultures of Latin America and of the Iberian World of the early modern/colonial period. Departing from a comparative perspective, my research seeks to rescue voices of marginalized and heterodox subjects from Brazil and Latin America, including those of indigenous, African, and Jewish heritage. My research and teaching projects have been funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council for Learned Societies, Fulbright Hays, the John Carter Brown Library, and the College of Arts and Sciences from The Ohio State University. Some of the books and special editions that I have published to date include: Through Cracks in the Wall: Modern Inquisitions in the Iberian Atlantic World (2010); A sátira e o intellectual criollo na colônia: Gregóro de Matos e Juan del Valle y Caviedes (1991); Diàlogos da conversão: missionários, índios, negros e judeus no contexto ibero-americano do período barroco (2005), 'Lusophone African and Afro-Brazilian Literatures" (2007), "O Brasil, a América Hispânica e o Caribe: Abordagens Comparativas" (2005), and more recently, "Silviano Santiago y los Estudios Latinoamericanos," published by the Série Críticas of the Instituto Iberoamericano (2015)." 

Pedro Schacht Pereira

Associate Professor of Portuguese and Iberian Studies

"In the preface to a 1981 volume of essays, the Portuguese critic Alfredo Margarido (1928-2010) decries the invisibility of what he calls the 'colonial fact' in most of Portugal's neorealist writers' published works, while noting that some of the leading exponents of the neorealist aesthetic had all at some point experienced life in Portugal's African colonies, and thus could not have failed to witness acts of colonial violence and exploitation. Margarido predicates this unexpected and perhaps strange invisibility upon the absence in Portugal of a major theory of Portuguese colonialism, which would have rendered colonialism invisible to Portuguese eyes, even the eyes of those Portuguese who were already predisposed to denounce arbitrary violence in the mainland. Margarido may have been on to something, since - and althrough theories of Portuguese colonialism have emerged since 1981- the invisibility of the 'colonial fact' remains a powerful 'vexata quaestio' in contemporary Portugal's society and culture. 

Taking Margarido's intervention as an enticing research program, I am interested in exploring questions such as the following: why should the 'forgetting of Africa' -understood not as an abstract entity, or a repository of European projections of the sublime, but rather as a crucial scene of the historical conflicts at the source of Modernity- constitute an indispensable category for our understanding of 20th and 21st century Portuguese literary and cultural movements? Are there other literary programs in other Portuguese-speaking countries that could productively be exposed to the same analytic angle? Even if we can no longer decry the absence of a theory of Portuguese colonialism in this second decade of the 21st century, can we nonetheless assume that literature and literary studies in the Portuguese language have freed themselves of what Margarido called the 'definitive weight of colonialism'? To what degree does the 'nation' remain a valid analytical focus for the study of the literatures of the different space-times of the Portuguese language? What roles did Brazil play in the history of Portuguese colonialism in Africa, and in the emergence of the neorealist aesthetic in Portugal? These are just some examples of questions whose rigorous probing I am interested in pursuing, and I welcome the likeminded as well as challenging projects you may want to bring to OSU." 

Lisa Voigt

Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

"My area of specialization is colonial Latin American literature and culture, and more broadly, the early modern Spanish and Portuguese empries. My two books, Writing Captivity in the Early Modern Atlantic: Circulations of Knowledge and Authority in the Iberian and English Imperial Worlds (2009) and Spectacular Wealth: The Festivals of Colonial South American Mining Towns (2016) are comparative studies that show the importance of including Portuguese America in "hemispheric" and Atlantic studies -approaches that emphasize the connections between areas that were not divided by nations and languages in the same way they are now. My current project, on the representation and participation of Africans and Americans in early modern festivals in Portugal (16th-18th centuries), emerges from the same interest in global connections and seeks to analyze various dimensions of the impact of the non-European world on the center of empire during the 'first global age.'

But besides being the object of my research, the search for connections is also part of my methodological approach and my teaching. Besides my next individual book, I am involved in various collaborative research projects: with colleagues in German and Art History, about the circulation of European travel account illustrations; with colleagues in Portugal, Brazil, and the UK about the use of 'Digital Humanities' tools for the study of festival accounts in the Portuguese empire; and with colleagues in Brazil about Iberian sources and spaces in the circulation of early modern geographic knowledge. The comparison between the Portuguese- and Spanish-speakin gworld are also part of the graduate courses I teach, such as 'Shipwreck and Captivity in the Atlantic World' and 'Cities and Festivals in the Iberian Empries.'" 

Other Activities

  • Research opportunities in Brazil and Portugal, through our ties with the University of São Paulo in Brazil and the Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento and the Instituto Camões in Portugal
  • Humanities Institute Working Groups in Iberian Studies and The Americas before 1900
  • Center for Latin American Studies Brazil Working Group
  • Wexner Center for the Arts Via Brazil, featuring Brazilian visual arts programming through a three-year long Mellon Foundation Grant
  • Instituto Camões Fund for lectures and other cultural activities promoting Portuguese at OSU, as well as scholarships for summer language study and research in Portugal

External Links

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