Inaugural Fulbright Emory Distinguished Chair seeks true exchange of knowledge

By Shannan Palma | Feb. 26, 2018

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Emory University is one of only a few U.S. institutions to have formed a partnership with Fulbright Brasil to host a senior Brazilian scholar for one semester each academic year. The inaugural Fulbright Emory Distinguished Chair in Brazilian Studies was historian Benito Schmidt, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in residence for fall 2017.

Schmidt had previously done an exchange with a university in France. The opportunity to spend a semester at Emory approaching history from an American perspective intrigued him.

“I was trying to learn another way to approach history and to get to know another academic space completely different from Brazil and completely different from France,” says Schmidt. “This comparative experience is very rich for me both as a researcher and as a professor. It helps me stimulate my students to know other realities, to compare their work with work produced here.”

From his early work following a subversive female journalist who died in 1984 to his most recent book focused on a left-wing revolutionary active in the struggle against Brazil’s military dictatorship, Schmidt writes at the intersection of history and biography, with a focus on the relationship between the individual and society. He is particularly interested in the way individuals factor in larger historical processes.

Initially attracted to Emory by the depth and breadth of the university’s Portuguese language and Brazilian studies offerings, Schmidt soon realized the its strength in women’s, gender and sexuality studies would particularly benefit his current project tracing five queer individuals who lived in Porto Alegre in the twentieth century.

His Fulbright position enabled him to audit a course with professor Michael Moon, a pioneer in the field, and to develop an area of study and theoretical expertise still uncommon in Brazil. Just as Schmidt brought his French-inflected perspective on Brazilian history to Emory’s students, he will now be able to bring the knowledge he gained at Emory back to his students at home.

This kind of bidirectional impact is what Emory’s partnership with the Fulbright program is all about. Emory’s global strategies call on the university to lead and influence global scholarship, research and teaching. The Fulbright Emory Distinguished Chair in Brazilian Studies is one part of a larger Brazil Initiative meant to maximize the impact of the university’s existing strengths, facilitating international collaboration and injecting new knowledge and perspectives into the Emory community.

Housed within walking distance of campus, the Fulbright Emory chair receives a maintenance stipend and travel fare in exchange for teaching a semester-long seminar and actively engaging with Emory faculty and students throughout their stay. If you are interested in bringing a Brazilian collaborator to Emory for a semester, please urge them to apply for this opportunity. The next call for applicants will be in fall 2018.