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The Center for Latin American & Latino Studies collaborates with schools and colleges across American University to catalyze and disseminate top-notch intellectual work on Brazilian politics, economics, foreign relations, society, and culture. The Center regularly sponsors research, events and publications on topics such as Brazil’s engagement in the international arena; political economy and business; politics and anti-corruption efforts; migration policy; violence and human rights; and organized crime. The AU Brazil Research Initiative, launched by the University in June of 2020 and directed by Prof. Matthew Taylor of our School of International Service (SIS) builds upon and expands these efforts in partnership with an array of Brazilian research institutions and public agencies.

Establishing this effort at a moment when on-site work and travel between the US and Brazil is not possible, we are pleased to present a new blog, the Brazil Research Initiative Blog, dedicated to discussion of new social science research on Brazil. This blog also features analysis and commentary on contemporary issues in Brazil by CLALS-affiliated researchers and their colleagues from beyond the AU community.

In addition to the scholarship of AU faculty members who conduct research on Brazil, the AU Brazil Research Initiative draws on the expertise of a substantial pool of Brazilian researchers who have spent periods in residence as Research Fellows at the Center. Since 2012, CLALS has hosted 18 doctoral and post-doctoral fellows from Brazil. The AU Brazil Research Initiative provides an umbrella framework to catalyze continued intellectual engagement and institutional collaboration with these researchers and their home institutions.

Researchers at American University have conducted substantial research on various facets of Brazilian affairs and CLALS has convened regular seminars and events to enhance the quality and reach of this work. Some noteworthy:

As part of its ongoing Luce Foundation-funded inquiries on religion in international affairs, CLALS convened a January 2020 international workshop at the Universidad Nacional de Brasilia to assess the role of Brazil and neighboring countries to shape global and regional norms addressing the phenomenon of environmentally induced migration. Professors Rob Albro (CLALS), Ken Conca (SIS), Bill Gentile (School of Communication), Eric Hershberg (CLALS and the School of Public Affairs), and Jayesh Rathod (Washington College of Law) are among the AU faculty involved in this project.

Claire Brunel of the School of International Service is working with a researcher from Smith College to investigate the relationship between internal migration and climate change. Their findings, building on a dataset of the road network over thirty years, suggest that states with warming temperatures have exhibited higher levels of emigration, other things equal.  

In 2018, scholars from a variety of US and Brazilian institutions took part in two workshops to discuss SIS Matthew Taylor’s manuscript on the political economy of Brazil under democracy. Workshops were held at AU as well as the Fundação Getulio Vargas’ School of International Relations in São Paulo. Decadent Developmentalism is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press and an online appendix is available as a CLALS working paper.

With leadership from Matthew Taylor and CLALS Research Fellow Steven Dudley, CLALS partnered with the research organization InSight Crime to undertake a multi-year research project on the operation of transnational criminal organizations in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. In March 2020, we joined the Center for the Study of Organized Crime (CeCOT) at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata to assemble participating researchers from across the hemisphere for a two-day workshop in Argentina to discuss project findings and directions for research on transnational criminal organizations in Brazil and its Southern Cone neighbors.

Jennifer Poole is conducting research with colleagues at the World Bank and the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica e Aplicada (IPEA) analyzing a massive dataset of labor statistics to explore how Brazilian businesses respond to advances in digital technology by altering their demand for different skill sets. The work further explores the role of Brazil’s restrictive labor policies on local labor adjustment in response to such technology shocks.

Austin Davis and Jennifer Poole are developing research (sponsored by UNCTAD and the IADB) on the role of foreign direct investment and multinational enterprises in promoting gender equality in Brazil. The research evaluates the gender composition and gender wage gaps of foreign versus domestic firms. It then explores whether workers moving from multinational to domestic firms can transfer information about gender practices, by analyzing the relationship between gender composition and gender wage bills across domestic firms that employ workers with previous experience in a multinational.  

In November 2018, CLALS partnered with Brazil’s Escola Nacional de Administração Pública (National School of Public Administration) and the Tribunal de Contas da União (Federal Accounting Tribunal) for a seminar rethinking anti-corruption efforts under the new presidential administration. Brazilian academics, including a healthy contingent of former CLALS fellows from Brazil, presented their research alongside senior federal policymakers. Over the course of two days, participants discussed transparency, the role of the judiciary, regulation of bureaucracy, and other aspects of fighting corruption in Brazil. Many of these papers were published in a special journal issue of the Revista da CGU, published by the Brazilian comptroller general’s office, released in 2019. This publication was spearheaded by former CLALS Research Fellow Marcio Cunha Filho.

In 2014-2015, a joint workshop held at American University’s School of International Service brought together scholars from American University and the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) to discuss the trajectory of Brazilian foreign policy and the country’s engagement in the international arena, resulting in a volume co-edited by Oliver Stuenkel of the FGV and Matthew Taylor of American University, entitled Brazil on the Global Stage: Power, Ideas, and the Liberal International Order (Palgrave, 2015).

From 2011-13 CLALS spearheaded an effort, together with consortium of Brazilian universities that form the Instituto Nacional para Estudos sobre os Estados Unidos (INEU) and the Coordinadora Regional de Investigacion Economica y Social (CRIES), to convene scholarship examining shifting patterns of regionalism in the Americas. Key participants from AU included SIS Professor Philip Brenner and CLALS Director Eric Hershberg. Project workshops were held in both Washington DC and in São Paulo, and the effort yielded a number of publications, including special issues of Pensamiento Propio and of Lua Nova.


Training and Exchange

There are ample opportunities for AU students to study Brazil and to take part in learning opportunities in partnership with host institutions in Brazil. In particular, AU Abroad currently offers two undergraduate study abroad programs in Brazil: the first is in São Paulo and operated via CET, while the second is a traditional undergraduate exchange program with PUC-Rio. Several schools and colleges across the University also conduct short courses that include field visits to Brazil, and we look forward to their expanding as CLALS seeks to catalyze broad and enduring academic linkages involving Brazil.

AU is also developing new programs to offer training for Brazilian students and professionals, and expects to announce arrangements for such initiatives in partnership with the IDP, ENAP and CGU. In so doing, we aim both to expand our relationships in Brazil and to facilitate mutual learning about contemporary Brazil and its relations with the United States and the broader world.

CLALS has hosted 19 pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows from Brazil in the past decade. Although the pandemic moment has curtailed exchange, we hope that we will soon be able to resume normal operation of the Fellows program. When that time comes, we continue to welcome expressions of interest from highly-qualified applicants with an interest in conducting research on themes of mutual interest with our faculty in Washington, D.C.