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About this Department


Excellence in Research and Teaching

The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has an international reputation for excellence in research and teaching on the Portuguese-speaking world — a vast geographical area encompassing eight different countries on four continents (Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor), in addition to long-standing immigrant communities in the United States.

The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate concentration in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies as well as graduate programs in literature and culture leading to MAs's and Ph.D. degrees. Students are able to work with a distinguished faculty and to take advantage of the extensive resources on the Portuguese-speaking world at the Rockefeller, John Hay and John Carter Brown libraries. The Ph.D. program in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has acquired a solid reputation for its comprehensive approach to the literatures and cultures of the Portuguese-speaking world. The doctoral program has maintained one of the highest admissions yields in Brown's Graduate School as well as an outstanding placement record for its Ph.D.s, despite a tight job market. 

Beyond Brown

The department extends its resources beyond the immediate university community by maintaining exchanges with Brazilian and Portuguese universities, by publishing books and four scholarly journals, and by organizing a varied program of cultural events.

Find out more about life in and around the department on our Resources and News pages.


The history of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies as a separate unit dates back to 1975, although the teaching of Portuguese language began as a steady offering in 1971 and Portuguese and Brazilian literature and culture courses began in 1969. A group of faculty members in English (George Monteiro), Portuguese (Nelson H. Vieira), Anthropology (George Hicks), History (Robert Padden), Sociology (Peter Evans), and Afro-American Studies (Anani Dzidzienyo) whose teaching and research interests focused mainly or in part on the Portuguese-speaking world, joined forces to establish the multidisciplinary Center for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and Bilingual Education in 1975. It was the second multidisciplinary center at Brown.

The Center for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and Bilingual Education was formalized in 1977 within the context of the first wave of internationalization at Brown, under President Howard Swearer, and of the push towards interdisciplinarity under Provost Maurice Glicksman. Onésimo T. Almeida and Adeline Becker joined the group a few months later in 1975 as instructors respectively in Portuguese Studies and Bilingual Education. Luiz F. Valente and Leonor Simas-Almeida joined the program in the 1980s.  From the outset the Center operated as a de facto department, with its own courses, undergraduate concentration, graduate programs, FTEs, governance, and a keen capacity to attract outside funding. It pioneered an interdisciplinary model for the study of foreign language and culture at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, which has now become standard in other language-based units.  It also identified at an early date the literature and interdisciplinary direction that the field of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies would continue to develop into the twenty-first century.

Over the last four decades, the center/department has become nationally and internationally known for excellence in research and teaching on the Portuguese-speaking world. In 1991 the former center was granted status as a multidisciplinary department, and a PhD in Luso-Brazilian Studies was approved, with a primary focus on language, literature and culture, but including an interdisciplinary component in history and the social sciences, which had also characterized the unit’s master’s and bachelor’s programs.

Through joint appointments and other initiatives, the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies collaborated increasingly with a variety of units, including the Brazil Initiative, Departments of Africana Studies, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Education, History, the Program in Judaic Studies, Music, and Theater Arts and Performance as well as the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Watson Institute for International Studies, the John Carter Brown Library, the Center for Environmental Studies, and the Education Alliance.