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Introducing Barnard’s Global Faculty Fellows

In March, Barnard's fifth annual global symposium, “Women Changing Brazil,” will take place in São Paulo, Brazil. In conjunction with this event, four faculty members have been selected as Global Faculty Fellows, and will travel to São Paulo to attend the symposium, engage with panelists and audience members, participate in research related to their fields, and create and solidify collaborations and connections with colleagues in the region. This year's faculty Fellows are:
Nara Milanich, Associate Professor of History
Jose Moya, Professor of History
Maria Rivera Maulucci, Assistant Professor of Education
Colleen Thomas-Young, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Dance

The Fellows were chosen by Barnard’s grants committee based on applications outlining current work or ideas for projects related to Brazil, describing how they would connect the symposium experience to their teaching or research and ways that they would like to bring the experience back to Barnard to share with the broader campus community.

Nara Milanich, Associate Professor of History
What motivated you to apply to be a Global Faculty Fellow this year? How does Brazil pertain to your scholarly interests?
My research and teaching centers on Latin American history, and you really can’t talk about Latin American history without talking about Brazil—this is true in most of the interdisciplinary courses I teach. This semester I’m teaching a course on inequality, and Brazil’s disparity problems are emblematic of issues throughout Latin America. Additionally, I have a longstanding, personal connection with the country—as a child I spent summers there with my mother, an anthropologist who did research in Brazil, so I was drawn to this opportunity.

What initiatives are you working on in relation to the symposium?
The symposium is about gender, a central focus in much of my research. Currently, I’m working on a project on the history of the paternity test before DNA and the way it changed ideas about family—we know a lot about motherhood and maternity, but fatherhood is also socially constructed and part of this conversation. I’m looking forward to spending time at the libraries and archives of the University of São Paulo, where a group of scientists conducted cutting-edge research on paternity in the 1930s and 1940s, exploring how such hereditary markers as blood grouping, fingerprints, facial features, and even dental structures might link people to their progenitors. I’m also excited about the fact that scientists are well-represented among the symposium speakers—Prof. Mayana Zatz, for example, is a renowned geneticist. While the early study of paternity today may strike us as archaic (Today no one uses teeth or noses to identify paternity!), scientists back then raised many social, legal, and philosophical issues about defining paternity that are still very relevant in the age of DNA. So it will be interesting to think about these connections—between gender and science and history and society—alongside the specific issues addressed during the symposium. 

What are you most anticipating about the overall experience?
I’m looking forward to recuperating my Portuguese, which I learned as a child. And I’m really curious just to see for myself what’s going on in Brazil, so widely discussed as fast-changing and emerging in so many areas. I remember that cover of the Economist a couple of years ago, showing Rio’s famous Cristo Redentor statue lifting off like a rocket, with the headline “Brazil Takes Off.” I’m always a little skeptical of the rhetoric of “booms”—Latin American history is littered with “booms”—but there are really exciting things happening there and I’m interested to go and talk with people and hear what’s on their minds.

Jose Moya, Professor of History
What motivated you to apply to be a Global Faculty Fellow this year? How does Brazil pertain to your scholarly interests?
I need to conduct research at the state archives in São Paulo and want to explore opportunities for collaboration with colleagues there, so participating in the Global Symposium presents a nice opportunity. Another motivating factor is that Brazil occupies an important place in the courses I teach, both the survey on Latin American history and a course on migration, race, and ethnicity in the region.

What initiatives are you working on in relation to the symposium?
To coincide with “Women Changing Brazil” and Barnard’s broader initiatives in this part of the world, we made Brazilian multiculturalism the Forum on Migration's theme for this semester. We’re offering a series of related events here on campus; the program includes presentations on the role of the Portuguese, Jews, Arabs, Japanese, and West Africans in the formation of the country.

While in Brazil, I am meeting with two colleagues at the University of São Paulo who founded a museum of tolerance that deals mainly with the Jewish experience in Brazil, and two others who work on Afro-Brazilian history. My goal is to find a way for USP and the Forum on Migration to co-sponsor two conferences at Barnard on the African and Jewish presence in Brazil and the United States. I was also invited by the sociology department at the Universidade Federal in Porto Alegre to present a paper on global migrations; I will also be traveling to southern Brazil for that.

Have you been to Brazil before? What are you most anticipating about the symposium and the overall experience?
I lived in Rio for a few months, traveled throughout the country, and have participated in various scholarly conferences there. I look forward to spending some time with Barnard alumnae and parents of Barnard students whom I met during a preliminary trip in preparation for the March symposium—their enthusiasm for Barnard is contagious.

Maria Rivera Maulucci, Assistant Professor of Education
What motivated you to apply to be a Global Faculty Fellow this year?
My motivation was sparked by the Provost’s Office’s call for proposals for Global Faculty Fellows. I received the e-mail while I was at a conference, and it started a conversation among some colleagues, which ultimately grew into a project exploring gender equity in elementary science education in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina.

What initiatives are you working on in relation to the symposium?
In preparation for the trip to Brazil, I have been working with colleagues in New York, Brazil, and Argentina to develop a survey designed to explore the perspectives of young girls in all three countries about their experience with science education. We are collecting ideas about how to include them in science education and how science education might need to change to be more welcoming to girls. One of my colleagues, Prof. Felicia Moore Mensah from Teachers College, received a grant matching the funds I received as a Global Faculty Fellow, so she will be traveling with me to São Paulo where we will convene with our South American collaborators. We’ll visit local schools and conduct focus group interviews with the children, teachers, administrators, and parents to generate a data set to guide the project’s next phases.

Have you traveled to Brazil before? What are you most anticipating about the symposium and the overall experience?
This will be my first time in Brazil. From the little I’ve already learned about the country, I am very curious to learn more about the political history and culture. I’m looking forward to seeing what the schools are like. What we know about science education and urban girls is closely coupled with issues of race and class, so it will be interesting to speak with Brazilian colleagues about the specific challenges and trends that they see in their classrooms and educational systems.

Colleen Thomas-Young, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Dance
What motivated you to apply to be a Global Faculty Fellow this year? How does Brazil pertain to your scholarly interests?
Over the past decade my work with my dance company, as well as my teaching, has included multiple collaborations, residencies, and tours throughout Brazil. I have found in Brazil, more than in any other part of the world, a very special connection to both artists and the public through their extraordinary response to the classes and workshops offered in Contact Improvisation. The sensibility of this work appealed to them strongly: the mix of listening, trust, risk, community, and extreme physical interaction (especially empowering woman to lift men) brought out a deep and focused interest in this work among the Brazilians I met and worked with.

What initiatives are you working on in relation to the symposium?
I will teach a Contact Improvisation workshop for the professional dancers in São Paolo and open it to other dancers, artists, Barnard alumnae, and the general public. I will also be in residence to explore the creation of a new work in collaboration with Petra Costa, a Brazilian filmmaker and Barnard alumna. I first met Petra as an undergraduate student in 2006. Seeing her film at MoMA in 2009, I was quite taken by the deeply personal and poetic nature of her work. We share similar interests, impulses, and aesthetic perspectives that feed our creative work, and during this residency we will search for imagery that bridges our two forms, as Petra creates with her language of the moving picture, and I create with my language of the moving body. We plan to bring the fruits of this work back to Barnard at some point and present the work here on campus as well.

Where in Brazil have you traveled before? What are you most anticipating about the symposium and the overall experience?
My first visit in 2001 brought me to Cia Municipal de Dança in Caxias do Sul for a three-week residency to create a new work on the 12 dancers of this city-supported company. Later company tours have included performances in Recife, Joåo Pessoa, Brasília, São José do Rio Preto, Maceió and Aracaju. Most recently we traveled to the remote Pantanal to teach and perform in Corumbá. Based on my previous experiences, I am anticipating the Global Symposium as an exciting opportunity to bring my teaching and creative interests together and to share them with a wide range of Brazilian people, as well as members of the Barnard community.