A syllabus for a hybrid Modern Brazilian history class

This fall I will be teaching a modern Brazil class, which is cross-listed between International Studies and History. I’ve decided to offer the class as a hybrid, because there are so many great resources available on-line, and I believe that it makes for a more active class. I hope that this may give some ideas to those of you who may be considering teaching a similar course. If you are interested in Brazilian history, you can see my own book on military terror in Brazil here.

Shawn Smallman, 2014

Modern Brazil

HST 463U/INTL 463U

Tuesday, 10-11:50am

Professor Smallman

Rm. 345, East Hall

Phone: 725-XXXX

E-mail: drss@pdx.edu

Office hours: Friday, 10:00-noon

Description: This course will explore such topics as slavery, abolition, messianism, banditry, the Amazon, race, military rule and democratization. Particular emphasis will be given to the differing visions the elites and the masses held of their nation, and how this tension shaped Brazilian society. By the end of the course students will have a better understanding of a Latin American culture, and how characteristics such as race and power are defined by history.

Hybrid Course: This is a “hybrid” course, meaning that instruction is made up of both weekly face-to-face classroom time and online activities. You are responsible for having read the assigned reading, and watched the required videos, by the Tuesday class-time for that week. To access D2L, go to the d2l.pdx.edu. To login, enter your odin ID and your odin password. If you do not have an odin account, or are not sure what your odin ID or password is, go to https://www.account.pdx.edu/ or contact the Information Technology Help Desk at help@pdx.edu or 725-HELP. For D2L help in person, please go to the 2nd floor computer lab in the Broadway building. All assignments will be submitted in the Dropbox feature of D2L. Please e-mail the faculty member directly rather than through D2L.

Learning Outcomes: The students in this class will:

  1. Understand the historical context that shapes contemporary Brazilian society.
  2. Demonstrate their knowledge of major political trends and issues within Brazil today.
  3. Discuss the differences between the ideas of race in Brazil and other nations, particularly the United States.
  4. Apply their knowledge of history, politics and identity to a discussion of two key books on Brazil


Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark.

Nicholas Gabriel Arons, Waiting for the Rain.

Both books are available at the Portland State bookstore. Please note that other readings and video for the course are accessed through the PSU library, via stable URLs embedded in the course content in D2L. For this reason, you will need to log into the library system in order to access these materials.

Basis for Grade:

Reading and Video Quizzes (40% of the final grade): Students will complete brief reading quizzes on D2L throughout the term as indicated on the syllabus. Quizzes will cover readings and other online materials and will help students prepare for class discussions. Quizzes should be completed no later than 11:59pm on Monday each week before class so that the instructor can review student reflections on the reading before class. Different students may have different questions for the quiz, based on their group in the class. The typical quiz will be a question that will entail a two to three paragraph response. You will have two and a half hours for each response. You may have only one attempt to take the quiz. If something so important comes up that you are unable to complete the quiz, please contact the professor. Remember: the quizzes will always be on the material for the Tuesday class. There are nine quizzes in total, because there is no quiz the first week.

On-line Discussion (30% of the final grade): Following class each week, I will post some questions on the discussion board. These questions will follow up on our in class discussion; that is, discussions will cover the material from the last class. Students will be asked to reply to at least one of my questions and to reply to at least one of their peer’s comments. Participation in online discussion will be graded based both on participation and the quality of the response. Questions will be posted each week by noon on Thursday. Students should respond to the instructor by Saturday at 11:59pm, and respond to a peer comment by Monday at 11:59pm.

Book Review (30% of final grade): Students will write a five to seven page review of Nicholas Gabriel Arons, Waiting for Rain. The book review must be uploaded to Dropbox in D2L, the course management system by 10am on Tuesday of week nine, when we will be discussing the book.

Please note that there is no final exam in this course.

Late policy: late submissions of the book review will be penalized (except in case of verifiable illness or family emergency) three percent a day for each day that they are late (including weekends) up to a maximum of thirty percent of the final grade. Please be certain to check that when you submit your book review into Dropbox that you receive a confirmation e-mail. Discussion posts and quizzes may not be submitted late without the instructor’s permission.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism:

Academic integrity is essential to learning, especially in an online setting. Plagiarism is the submission of another person’s work as your own, such as by having someone else write your quiz response, discussion post, or book review. It is also a serious academic crime. Any instance of plagiarism will result in an automatic “O” for that assignment, for both the person who submitted the assignment, and the person who helped them. The student(s) may also be referred to the Dean of Students.

Disability: Any student who has a disability that may require some special arrangements in order to fulfill the course requirements should contact the Disability Resource Center at the start of the course to make appropriate arrangements. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, and their phone number is (503) 725-XXXX.

Topics: True academic inquiry must follow its own course. For this reason, there may be changes and additions to the schedule that follows.


Week One: Brazil until Independence

Class on September 30th

Lecture: Brazil at Independence

Video: “Brazil Diaries”


Cao, Benito. “White Hegemony in the (Re)birth of Brazil” Humanities Research, 2011.

Maxwell, Kenneth. “Why Was Brazil Different,” Council of Foreign Relations (April 25, 2000).

Pessis, et al, “Pedra Furada, Brazil: Paleoindians, Paintings and Paradoxes,” Athena Review, 3:2.


Map of Indigenous Peoples

The Portuguese Empire

Political Map of Brazil

A map of Europe superimposed on Brazil

Week Two: Slavery Race and Empire

Class on October 7th.


Abolition and Abdication: the Paraguayan War to the Foundation of the Republic

Discussion: Video: “Brazil in Black and White” and “Brazil: A Racial Paradise?” We will also discuss the reading on modern day slavery in Brazil.


Brazil in Black and White: Skin color and higher education

Brazil: A Racial Paradise?

Trailer: Eliza Lynch: A documentary (Youtube).


Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado, “From Slave Rebels to Strikebreakers: the Quilombo of Japaquara and the Problem of Citizenship in Late-Nineteenth Century Brazil.”

Newspaper article on slavery in modern Amazonia.

Crowdlink: Modern Day slavery in Brazil. Read two articles or posts at this website.

Week Three: Elites versus Masses in the Northeast

Class on October 14th.




Discussion: Quilombos and their legacies; Bioterrorism in Brazil’s Northeast.

Video: Lampião


Gerald Greenfield, “Lampião, Luiz and Padim Ciço: Three Icons of the Brazilian Northeast” Memory Studies, 2:393 (2009): 393-410.

Charles C. Mann and Susanna Hecht, “Where Slaves Ruled.” National Geographic website.

Smallman’s blog posts: “Witches’ Broom” and “Video Review- the Knot: a deliberate human act.”

Week 4: Cities and Favelas

Class on October 21st.

Discussion: Carolina Maria de Jesus: Child of the Dark

Lecture: Brasilia

Discussion: “Oscar Niemeyer” and “Urban Planning Challenges”

Reading and Video:

Book: Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark.

Video: Oscar Niemeyer: A Vida e um Sopro (in Portuguese with English subtitles)

Brazil: Urban Planning Challenges

Week 5: The Military and Politics

Class on October 28th

Lecture: Old Republic through Military Rule

Discussion: Military Terror in Brazil- articles by Smallman, as well as material on Brazil’s Truth Commission.


Shawn Smallman, “The Professionalization of Military Terror in Brazil, 1945-1964″ Luso-Brazilian Review 37/1 (2000): 1-12

Shawn Smallman, “Shady Business: A History of Corruption in the Brazilian Military Prior to 1954” Latin American Research Review 32:3 (Fall 1997): 39-62.

Benjamin Cohen, “Why hasn’t this teacher been shot? Moral-Sexual Panic, the Repressive Right, and Brazil’s National Security State. Hispanic American Historical Review 92:3 (August 2012), 403-436.

Website: Transitional Justice in Brazil (read five posts).

Wikipedia: National Truth Commission

Week 6: Amazonia: Indigenous Peoples and Anthropologists

Class on November 4th.


Great Anthropologists

20th century Amazonian history

Discussion: Video and Reading


Indians in Brazil: The First Contacts

Secret Cities of the Amazon

Survival International: brief clip on uncontacted tribes.


Pärssinen, Schaan & Ranzi, “Pre-Colombian Geometric Earthworks in the Upper Purús” Antiquity, 83/29 (2009): 1084-1095.

Michael J. Heckenberger, et al, “Amazonia 1492: Pristine Forest or Cultural Parkland,” Science, 301/5640, 1710-1740.

Michael J. Heckenberter, et al., “Pre-Columbian Urbanism, Anthropogenic Landscapes and the Future of the Amazon,” Science 321, 5893 (29 August 2008): 1214-1217.

Flavio dos Santos Gomes, “A `Safe Haven’: Runaway slaves, Mocambos and Borders in Colonial Amazonia, Brazil.” Hispanic American Historical Review 82:3 (2002) 469-498.

Smallman’s blog: “Global Amazonia.”

Week 7: Amazonian Dams

Note: There is no class on November 11th because it is Veterans’ Day.

Online discussion: Dams in the Amazon


The Battle for the Amazon: The Xingu vs. The Belo Monte Dam

TED Talk: The Fight to End Rare Animal Trafficking in Brazil


Amazonia Viva website

Clay Risen, “A Mega-dam Dilemma in the Amazon” Smithsonian.

Map: Dams in Amazonia

Week 8: Amazonia, folklore and National Parks

Class on November 18th. Note: you should be working on the book review, which is due next week.

Lecture: Amazonian Folklore

Discussion: Video and the article, “Trials of a Primatologist.”

Reading and Video:

Video: Amazonian National Parks

Article: Smithsonian, “Trials of a Primatologist”

Note: the reading and video component of the class this week is relatively light, so that you can work on your book review of Arons, Waiting for the Rain.

Week 9: Drought and Climate Change in Brazil

Class on November 25th.

Discussion: Waiting for the Rain

Megaprojects in Brazil


Book: Nicholas Gabriel Arons, Waiting for Rain

Simon Romero, “Grand Visions Fizzle in Brazil,’ New York Times.

Video: “Brazil Tracks from Boom to Rust,” New York Times

Week 10: Soccer, Carnaval and Global Power

Last class on December 2nd.


Brazil on the Global Stage

Discussion: Video, “Sports World.” Podcast: Carnaval. Assigned reading.


Sean Burges, “ Brazil as a Bridge Between Old and New Powers.”

Steen Christenson, “Brazil’s Foreign Policy Priorities.”

Video: Sports World.

There is no final exam in this course. Enjoy the Break!


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