Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

History of the Department

Over decades, the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has become nationally and internationally known for excellence in teaching and research on the Portuguese-speaking world.

Early Development and Founding Faculty

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.

National and International Recognition

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.