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2012 Global Seminars


History, Culture, and Urban Life: Rio de Janeiro and the Imaginary of Brazil


“History, Culture, and Urban Life: Rio de Janeiro and the Imaginary of Brazil” will be taught at Brazil Pontificia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro from June 25 to August 3, 2012. The course is led by Bruno M. Carvalho, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese languages and cultures.

Rio de Janeiro served as Brazil’s economic, political, and cultural center for much of its history. A national capital from 1763 until 1960, it is the only city in the Americas to have also been the capital of a European monarchy and an empire. As the showcase of a nation eager to establish itself as modern and cosmopolitan, Rio has frequently been a laboratory for numerous architectural, city planning, and urbanism trends. At the same time, it has been the site of many of the multiethnic cultural forms that have been crucial to the formation of a Brazilian identity. Focusing on intersections between modernization projects and cultural production since the late-nineteenth century, the seminar discusses questions such as: What have been some of the competing visions for Rio’s future? How have different plans for the city been fulfilled or frustrated? How can we understand these developments in a global context?
Rio has been the subject of countless songs, films, and books. Often called the “Marvelous City,” it has captured the imagination of travelers, artists, intellectuals, and everyday dwellers. This interdisciplinary course explores various representations of the city—in fiction and photography, in painting and poetry—while examining perspectives from urbanism and the social sciences. In the process, several topics will emerge, including racial relations and the impact of technological inventions in the urban experience. Being in Rio provides seminar participants with an unparalleled opportunity to visit several of the places and see the cultural practices studied. Excursions include trips to museums, favela NGOs, and the colonial town of Paraty. As the seminar advances, the study of Rio’s history will be increasingly tied to some of the ways in which the city is wrestling with contemporary challenges as it prepares to host the 2016 Olympic games.
In general the seminar will meet Monday through Thursday, with Fridays reserved for field trips. Once or twice a week, the class will host a guest lecturer: scholars, artists, or specialists on the day’s topic. The seminar includes a community service component and participants are required to attend classes on conversational Portuguese.
This course fulfills the Literature and the Arts (LA) requirement and is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. It is cross-listed with the Department of Architecture, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Culture, and the Program in Latin American Studies. While not cross-listed with the Program in Urban Studies, it will count toward a certificate in that program. Students are required to write papers in Portuguese if they plan to use this course towards a Certificate in Portuguese Language and Culture.  Admission is by application and interview.
The Global Seminar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is cosponsored by Sovereign Bank.

“Favela,” aluminum mosaic by Jerry Trueman,