The importance of being a Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies

The exchange program in which I participated is part of a Brazilian educational policy to stimulate knowledge production in our country. I was granted a CAPES/ PDEE scholarship (Sep 2009–Feb 2010) by the Brazilian government and full access to City University of New York (CUNY) campuses, libraries and research facilities by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS). Coming to New York as a scholar in residence has certainly had an impact on my academic project and professional experience. My thesis project is entitled “Educational Policy to Fight Homophobia in Public Schools in Brazil (2004-2008).” Drawing on interdisciplinary methodologies across History and Anthropology, I analyze policies at the Ministry of Education. In 2004, the Workers Party administration of President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva launched “Brazil without Homophobia”, an unprecedented program calling for the adoption of public policies to combat homophobia across federal ministries. I examine the agenda implemented by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, where policies have articulated various actors and institutions, including social movements, civil servants, and universities/academics.The thesis is being developed within the Interdisciplinary Program of Humanities (DICH) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), and has received generous advising and support from colleagues at the Center for Gender Identities and Subjectivities (NIGS– coordinated by thesis supervisor, anthropologist Miriam Pillar Grossi. Editor’s Note: For more on this research attend Felipe’s talk, February 4, 2009 7-9 pm at the Graduate Center. The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) is a well known institution of excellence and was chosen to strengthen my theoretical background and to open a door for future scholars of gender and sexuality in South America, particularly in Brazil. The thesis is also supervised by the historian Joana Maria Pedro who runs the Center of History and Gender (LEGH), and within New York it is being co-supervised by Rafael de La Dehesa, a CLAGS Board Member. The major impact of being a scholar in residence was the effect my experience has had in developing and writing my thesis. We all know that the knowledge making process nowadays involves global and local circuits of texts and scholars. Being a scholar in residence at CLAGS positions me and my host universities within these circuits, particularly in the field of Gay and Lesbian Studies and Gender Studies. I would like to affirm that to stimulate exchange programs between different educational systems broadens and improves the knowledge production in each region. The research experience and methodological tools I gained allowed me to re-read my theoretical framework and re-interpret my fieldwork. In addition, I took home new strategies for both teaching and learning in humanities-based institutions. The Graduate Center’s collegiality, as well as the personal and academic networks that evolved also impacted methods of reading, interpreting and teaching. Furthermore, I experienced living as other in the postcolonial sense; that is—a sense of alienation derived from trying to experience different cosmologies and confronting them by attending events, participating in academic activities, and every day life in New York.

In addition, it was extremely important to establish relationships with colleagues within the field of Lesbian and Gay Studies who are employing alternate theoretical frameworks. In other words, the relationships established made it possible to exchange bibliographic references as well as lived experiences to produce new knowledge. I already knew many texts from South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, but as a scholar in residence I got to experience the sense of otherness in the streets and in the university. In this sense, because of the exchange program, postcolonialism became an experience in addition to a theoretical praxis. My personal canon, including scholars Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, exceeded the fetishistic place of the author; I was able to study in detail their production and biography, particularly in the New York Natural History Museum. My experience as a scholar in residence forced me to recognize New York’s academic role within the production of, and tension between global and local knowledge. My ongoing reflections about these tensions allowed me to incorporate newly found academic resources even as I begin to re-interpret global reading agendas within local frameworks. I return home with heavy, yet valuable luggage, filled with theory and experience that will help me cast a critical eye on Brazilian society and policies, and allowing an analysis of my project within differing paradigms. If being distant from “home” helped me to be less familiar and to desire to be more familiar, going back “home” means to unpack it all and realize that I was deeply affected by this program and experience.