The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
at Brown University

Luiz Fernando Valente
Brown University


Established in 1977 as a multidisciplinary Center and granted departmental status in 1991, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has a national and international reputation for excellence in research and teaching on the Portuguese-speaking world.  The Department is unique in its comprehensive coverage of the Portuguese-speaking world, with unparalleled teaching and research resources on Brazil and Portugal, and growing emphasis on Lusophone Africa. The Portuguese and Brazilian Studies faculty comprises scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences with specialization in Portuguese, Brazilian, Lusophone and Comparative Literature, Portuguese and Brazilian History, Education, Anthropology, Cross-Cultural Studies, Race Relations, Judaic Studies, Cultural Studies and Second-Language Acquisition. Our distinguished regular faculty is complemented by frequent visitors from Portugal and Brazil. Besides having a stellar publication record, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies faculty members serve on editorial boards of several professional journals and are active in all of the major professional associations in the field, holding leadership positions in, among others, the Brazilian Studies Association, the International Association of Lusitanists, the Modern Language Association of America, the American Portuguese Studies Association, and the Latin American Jewish Studies Association. The Department houses three professional journals (Brasil/Brazil: A Journal of Brazilian Literature, Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-American Letters and Studies and the e-Journal of Portuguese History) as well as Gávea-Brown Publications, which publishes books on Portuguese and Portuguese-American literature and culture, including translations.  

Through joint appointments and other initiatives, the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies collaborates with a variety of units, including the Departments of Africana Studies, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Education and History, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Watson Institute for International Studies, the John Carter Brown Library, the Program in Judaic Studies, and the Education Alliance. The Department also maintains close cooperation with several universities in Brazil and Portugal, in the form of joint publications and research projects, sponsorship of events, advising of doctoral students, hosting of post-doctoral scholars, and study abroad. Among these universities are the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), the Catholic University of Rio Grande do SUL (PUC-RS), the Federal Fluminense University (UFF), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the University of Oporto, the University of Aveiro, the University of Lisbon, and the Superior Institute for Labor and Entrepreneurship Science (ISCTE). Over the past two decades we have welcomed a steady flow of visiting scholars from other institutions in the United States as well as from abroad, who have come to Brown to conduct research for dissertations, books and articles. Most of the foreign scholars have been supported by grants from funding agencies of the Brazilian government (CAPES and CNPq) and from Portuguese foundations such as Calouste Gulbenkian, Instituto Camões and FLAD (Luso-American Development Foundation).

The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate concentration in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies as well as graduate programs leading to the master's and the Ph.D. degrees. Among the graduate degrees are an interdisciplinary master's degree in Brazilian Studies and a master's degree in English as a Second Language and Cross-Cultural Studies, which is administered in cooperation with the Education Alliance and has served as training ground for dozens of high school teachers and administrators in southern New England. The Ph.D. in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has acquired a solid reputation as the preeminent doctoral program in the United States focusing on the literatures and cultures of the Portuguese-speaking world. Regarded as a success story and a university showcase, the Department received financial support from the Graduate School for a pilot program designed to bring Brown Ph.D. graduates back to campus for conferences and lectures. In May 2005 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the first two doctorates in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies with the participation of all of our Ph.D. graduates, who joined our faculty and current graduate students for a two-day symposium. Our doctoral program has maintained one of the highest admissions yields in the Brown Graduate School while the Department’s placement record of our Ph.Ds. stands at 100% despite a tight job market. Our graduates have been offered faculty positions at Harvard, Tulane, Notre Dame, Chicago, Georgia, Brown, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, St. Mary's and Rhode Island College, as well as three universities in the prestigious Brazilian federal university system (Minas Gerais, Bahia and Paraíba).

The presence of a distinguished Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown has helped attract to our sister departments graduate students interested in studying the Portuguese-speaking world.  In addition to pursuing their specific professional training in their home departments, such students are able to enroll in courses and take advantage of faculty resources in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, while becoming part of a strong interdisciplinary cohort of scholars in the university at large who share an academic interest in the Portuguese-speaking world. Indeed, over the past couple of decades a growing number of outstanding master's theses and doctoral dissertations on topics related to Brazil, Portugal, and Lusophone Africa have been presented to such departments as Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Hispanic Studies, History, Political Science and Sociology.

Our selective undergraduate concentration, requiring command of the Portuguese language at the advanced level, completion of interrelated courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences focusing on the Portuguese-speaking world, and participation in an interdisciplinary seminar that includes the writing of a major research paper in Portuguese, has generally attracted excellent students. Portuguese and Brazilian concentrators have consistently graduated magna cum laude, been elected to the Brown chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and fared well in competition for post-graduate awards, including four Fulbright grants over the past six years. They have attended prestigious graduate, medical, law and business schools and gone on to successful careers in education, communications, law, government, medicine and business.

Essentially all of our concentrators spend one or two semesters studying at a university in a Portuguese-speaking country, with most participating in the Brown-in-Brazil Program. Rated by the Office of International Programs as one of the university’s best-run study abroad programs, the Brown-in-Brazil Program is based at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, arguably the leading private institution of higher learning in Brazil. Unlike some study abroad programs at Brown, the Brown-in-Brazil Program is closely supervised by the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and interconnected with our undergraduate curriculum. Open to all Brown students with adequate preparation, regardless of their concentration, the program has also welcomed students from our peer institutions, including Columbia, Smith, Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Tulane and others.

The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies also serves the Brown community at large by offering a variety of courses in English as well as outstanding Portuguese language instruction. Indeed, quality Portuguese language instruction has been one of the hallmarks of the Department since its beginnings as a Center. Both junior and senior faculty members are committed to and have participated in language teaching. Reputed for its effectiveness and known for its innovative methodologies, the Portuguese language program has attracted a growing number of students, most of whom continue through several levels of instruction. Our language program has consistently received high marks from our students and served as a model for other institutions.

Besides offering first-rate academic programs, the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies functions as the nucleus for on-campus activities relating to the Portuguese-speaking world through its active and varied program of cultural events, including lectures, concerts, symposia and film series. At the same time, the Department extends its resources beyond the university walls by opening many of its programs to the surrounding community. Together with our master’s degree in Cross-Cultural Study, these programs reaffirm the Department’s commitment to community outreach.




Copyright 2005, ISSN 1645-6432
e-JPH, Vol.3, number 1, Summer 2005