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Black Lives Matter Conference: Life and Death in Contemporary Brazil

Undergraduates enrolled in “Black Lives Matter,” a course taught by Mellon Visiting Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Dr. Silvio Almeida, have identified useful points of comparison between Brazil and the United States. Both countries face complex historical legacies as two of the largest slave-holding societies in the Western Hemisphere. Yet the students have concluded that focusing exclusively on death, suffering, and defeat can discourage current struggles for equality and justice. According to Almeida, “one of the most striking outcomes of the course has been students’ ardor in imagining life-affirming politics, or a politics of life rather than one of death."

photo of Silvio de Almeida
Mellon Visiting Professor, Dr. Silvio de Almeida

The Duke Global Brazil Conference, now in its sixth year, will highlight precisely the life-affirming qualities of contemporary and historical struggles in the world’s fifth largest country with the largest African-descended population outside of Africa. 

Brazil is indeed infamous for exclusionary racialized violence, radical inequalities of wealth, and a deeply entrenched culture of cruelty. These vital issues will be examined by Graham Denyer Willis (University of Cambridge), Ana Paulina Lee (Columbia University), and Jane-Marie Collins (University of Nottingham). 

At the same time, Brazil’s black population and the popular majority as a whole have always affirmed and celebrated life. The country has enacted the world’s most ambitious affirmative action policies, the topic of a documentary to be premiered by Duke Ph.D. candidate Travis Knoll. African-derived art, music, and dance have been sites of strength and resilience and form the focus of presentations by Hélio Menezes (University of São Paulo), Luciane Ramos Silva (State University of Campinas), and Mila Burns (Lehman College CUNY), respectively. Marcelo Nogueira, a Ph.D. candidate in Duke Romance Studies, will also perform popularly inspired guitar music by the internationally famous Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. 

The conference will be held on February 27 and 28 at Duke’s John Hope Franklin Center. All events are free and open to the public.