(Working Knowledge of Portuguese Required)
What exactly is a pobre? The answer is clear to everyone—before, of course, the time comes to provide a specific definition and the doubts begin. For example, is a pobre the same thing as a subalterno or a despossuído or an “outro” devoid of symbolic capital or actual money? If not, what is the difference? Do people have to think that they are poor to actually be poor? Can poverty be at largely quantified or does it always have a qualitative component and how should this be judged? In what ways has the definition of the term changed over time in Brazil? And what are the unspoken assumptions not just about poverty but also “writing poverty” in different academic disciplines in the U.S. and Brazil?
This seminar sets out to compare key writings about poverty or that involve apparent pobres that appear in literature, the social sciences (above all, History and Anthropology), and films. Many of these texts and movies are justly celebrated and students may well have seen, or at least heard of, some of them before. Our goal in this case will be to allow the course materials to shed light upon, and challenge each other. Each seminar participant will write out a definition of the pobre and pobreza each week as drawn from the reading/viewing in question with comments about what the example would appear to question or confirm. Also, we will be thinking about not just different definitions but different styles of writing and what is permitted, rewarded, and regarded with unease in diverse disciplines in different places and at varied moments in time.
Students will lead off at least one class in the company of another seminar participant from another discipline or department. Everyone will prepare a one-page commentary on and definition of that week’s Pobre—a task that will become both easier and more challenging (in a good way!) as the seminar moves on.
Every student will write a final paper that engages specific aspects of the course work while advancing his or her own particular academic interests and goals.