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Media advisory: Experts available to discuss Brazil in advance of World Cup

Thursday, May 15, 2014

LAWRENCE — As the world turns to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, University of Kansas faculty are available to speak to the media about their expertise in Brazil. KU experts can discuss Brazil’s tourism promotion, environmental changes, race relations and economy.

The World Cup will be June 12 to July 13 in cities throughout Brazil. The experts listed below have traveled to Brazil for research, and some plan to be in the country before or during the World Cup.

Antonio Luciano Tosta, an assistant professor of Brazilian literature and culture, is working on a book about representations of Brazil abroad. He is examining the stereotypes and national symbols used in state-sponsored ads that are broadcast through various media in Brazil and around the world. He is also analyzing how several private companies explore Brazil’s national image worldwide for the promotion of their products and is comparing these images with official state-sponsored ones. 

“As a Brazilian, the World Cup speaks to all of us, one way or another,” Tosta said. “To me, the World Cup is interesting academically because Brazil is involved in marketing its image worldwide. This is an opportunity for Brazil to put itself out there and show the world all the great things the country has. However, it is also a moment in which the country needs to worry about its ‘not so great’ things as well and how to minimize them during the event.”

During the World Cup, Tosta will travel with KU students to Salvador, one of the sites for World Cup games and a popular Carnival spot. He also has co-edited a multidisciplinary anthology on Brazil targeted to high school students and college freshmen, which will be released soon.

Chris Brown, an associate professor of geography and the director of the Environmental Studies Program, has studied the rapid changes in the Brazilian Amazon since the early 1990s. His dozens of published articles on Brazil have looked at deforestation, land ownership issues, the increasing presence of large-scale industrial agriculture, the emerging biofuels industry, the influence of nongovernmental organizations and the region’s political climate.

“As a geographer, I’m interested in understanding the unfolding relationship between people and the environment. Brazil is an incredible place to study because of its rapid changes in politics and economics, and as consequence what you see on the land,” Brown said.

Mara Aubel, a lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese, studies race relations. A native Brazilian, Aubel grew up in a time when political leaders and intellectuals promoted the idea of a racial democracy, and the topic of racial discrimination was practically taboo. In the past 20 years as affirmative action policies have been put in place, the conversation of race has become more open. Aubel has researched the quota system at the State University of Santa Cruz in the Brazilian state of Bahia. She is currently working toward a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy studies.

“Deep inside Brazilians want racial democracy to be true,” Aubel said. “And we are afraid by acknowledging racial discrimination, we are getting further away from making racial democracy a reality.”

Melissa Birch, an associate professor of business, teaches about business in Latin America. There are important economic links between Brazil and Kansas, Birch said. Brazil is a major market for Kansas’ exports, importing aircraft and related parts as well as agriculture products. The country is also the largest importer in Latin America of Kansas wheat.

“We have a lot more connections with Brazil than people think,” Birch said. “If it does well, we are likely to do well, too.”

Later this month, Birch will be traveling to Brazil to study the potential of establishing a service learning program through a nongovernment organization that is based in Brazil and headed by KU alumnus Douglas Trent.