Status: Wait List


Beyond the Amazon, Carnival, and soccer

Fall 2023
Wednesday Morning
Moderator: Ben Jaffee



The purpose of this seminar is to expose participants to the complex history and culture of Brazil, an important country under-appreciated by most Americans.


Brazil, the largest country in Latin America in both area and population, is far more than the land of the Amazon, Carnival, and soccer. A former Portuguese colony for over 300 years, Brazil was also the destination of more African slaves than any other colony and country in the Western Hemisphere. We will explore Brazil’s many similarities to and differences from the United States, as well as from the other Latin American republics. For example, how did Brazil abolish slavery without a civil war and even without much violence? What was the aftermath of Brazilian abolition in 1888? How has Brazil navigated the path from Portuguese colony to 19th-century empire to a functioning democracy? After the turbulent 2022 election, what is the future of Brazilian democracy? The seminar will also explore areas of Brazilian culture that have achieved international recognition—music, literature, sports, and cuisine—as well as the unique racial makeup of the Brazilian population.

ROLE OF PARTICIPANTS: Participants will choose from a list of topics to research and prepare a 30- to 40-minute presentation and participate in a discussion after the presentation. Participants will also be free to choose a topic of their own, in consultation with the moderator.

The moderator will make available a list of books, journal articles, and Internet resources for use by all participants for general purposes and for specific research topics. (see seminar handout).

ABOUT THE MODERATOR: Ben Jaffee was a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil and has travelled widely through Latin American. A former immigration attorney, he previously moderated an LIR seminar on U.S. immigration.